“This is mine!”

A story of community rights violations on the island of Mallorca

Entrance to Cova des Coloms

This article will address the problem of private property as a violation of community rights concerning the public beach of Cala Varques.

~ The Moral Issue ~

“The first man who, having fenced off a plot of land, thought of saying, ‘This is mine’ and found people simple enough to believe him was the real founder of civil society. How many crimes, wars, murders, how many miseries and horrors might the human race had been spared by the one who, upon pulling up the stakes or filling in the ditch, had shouted to his fellow men: ‘Beware of listening to this impostor; you are lost if you forget the fruits of the earth belong to all and that the earth belongs to no one.’

Source: “Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men,” Jean-Jacque Rousseau, 1755

~ The Value ~  

Every season streams of people flock to the beautiful shores of Cala Varques, the nearby caves like Cova des Coloms and all surrounding natural gifts. The place is so pristine and magical that one remembers it forever. It is a public beach and community gathering space that many associate with leisure, freedom and unmediated communion between nature and humans. It can be said that the fact it is still wild makes it attractive to people who stay away from commercial beach resorts. The place feels free, uninvaided by capital and money. It is also a playground for those who are into caving, sailing, snorkelling, rock climbing and everybody who loves the outdoors.  

I personally came across this place ten years ago on a climbing trip organised by my university mountaineering club facilitators. My first proper deep water solo route was climbed here. Once I settled in Mallorca I started visiting a few times every summer. The accumulation of unrepeatable memories and valuable interactions with people and nature has bonded me with this piece of paradise beyond my lifetime. It is in many ways an outdoor home where I have felt more alive than ever. Why? Because of the presence of the gift economy. Here I have shared adventure, food, water, songs, stories, languages, climbs and laughter. This place has given me wealth that cannot be quantified with human inventions like money, time, space and property. Although I am speaking for myself I would like the reader to multiply these emotions into the thousands. I am pretty sure that the majority of visitors have a string of stories and memories related to this common source of happiness and connection therefore I am obliged to defend its access for the sake of the common interest we all share. 

~ The Dispossession Story ~ 

It is not clear when the problem originated but almost every summer access to Cala Varques has been in jeopardy due to the private owner of part of the land near the beach trying to block the path that people use to reach the place. This is a photo of the current (summer 2020) situation.

The Gate blocking access to Cala Varques, outside view
The Gate blocking access to Cala Varques, outside view
The Gate blocking access to Cala Varques, inside view
The Gate blocking access to Cala Varques, inside view
Locked out of the public path, Cala Varques, Mallorca 2020
Locked out of the public path, Cala Varques, Mallorca 2020
Shackled in an illegal dispossession cycle, Cala Varques, Mallorca 2020
Shackled in an illegal dispossession cycle, Cala Varques, Mallorca 2020

I am not sure why there is such a push to close a well trodden public path as there is no housing in the area but the fact is that every season people are having to figure out a way to avoid the arbitrarily imposed barrier.

In 2018 hundreds of visitors were squeezing through the half a meter opening between the two gates tied with a chain, in 2019 they the community made a hole into the concrete wall and went through, avoiding the gate. This year the metal gate is firmly closed and the hole cemented so we are now jumping over three fences to go around the official entrance and get back to the path – see photos below.

Fence number 1, height = almost 2 meters
Fence number 1, height = almost 2 meters
Fence number 2 (outside view)
Fence number 2 (outside view)
Fence 2 (inside view)
Fence 2 (inside view)
Fence 3 (outside view). This is the last fence one needs to jump in order to access the public path which is blocked by the gate.
Fence 3 (outside view). This is the last fence one needs to jump in order to access the public path which is blocked by the gate.

~ The Human Story ~

On the last Friday of May 2020 we visited for the first time this season. As I had to wait for my friends to leave the car in a parking located 1h from the gate (leaving your car is restricted on the public road leading to the the path – not sure why?) I observed steady stream of people approaching the beach. Families with young children, dogs, elderly people…now picture them jumping over 2 meter wall along with all their luggage. The health and safety implications are a matter of simple statistics. According to rough observation there are average of 50 people per day and over 80 people a day during weekends that are accessing the beach. This means hundreds of people every week are in jeopardy of damaging their bodies, personal possessions and pets. Calculate the stress and fear they experience when having to go through unprecedented obstacles not encountered in their daily life and the frustration they have to go through when they realise they are a burden to their group because they are too young or too old or unfit to do what the others are capable of doing and you get a pretty sick and violent situation. It is upsetting. Quantifying risk, stress, humiliation, inconvenience and frustration is probably not possible but from what I have seen it is a constant occurrence in the land of the unfree from the illegal violence inflicted by private owners on the general public. 

It is as simple as this, the community has been dispossessed of their civil, human and birth rights of enjoying a common natural resource along with violations on freedom of movement, period. The reasons – the privileged few afraid of sharing their “who knows how” claimed land.  

~ The Legal Story ~  

Although I am not an expert I found the following information on this website: https://www.bcn.cl/

Is it possible to request access routes from the owner of a land or house that is next to the beach, river or lake in order to reach it?

If you want to go to the beach for tourism or fishing purposes, and there are no public roads or paths to reach it, the owners of the land must provide access free of charge. This right is protected by Article 13 of Decree Law No. 1,939 of 1977.

Are there private sea beaches?

No. According to the Civil Code, beaches are national goods for public use or public property. This implies that the domain and its use belongs to all the inhabitants of the nation. Therefore, there are no private beaches in any region of our country.

Is there any way to report the existence of a private beach?

The Ministry of National Assets (www.bienes.cl) has a telephone number to report the existence of private beaches, as well as people who are “privatizing” rivers and lakes. The number is 800 104 559 (toll free number), and is available to all holidaymakers in the country.


~ Conclusion ~

The conquest of common resources by capitalist units with high concentration of power will not stop until total control is imposed on the dispossessed. We see this everywhere we look – healthcare, food supply, digital economy, mass media, education. Our power is in sharing common grounds, meeting on common lands and living in a free from coercion state of giving and receiving. The restriction of access to one of the most special spaces I have experienced in my life is a direct attack on the expression of our humanity and ability to share, give, receive and connect with others. If we allow to be dispossessed we risk enslaving the coming generation even further. Fear of coercion betrays our ability to be humans and practice generosity towards the ones that come after us. If we don’t have enough self respect to protect our rights and set boundaries we should find the strength to do it for the others coming after us.

We are defined by our actions not by our words. Let’s build a community that is able to protect humanity and the right to live in the gift. For more information join our community channels or drop us a line: balkanvagabondz@systemli.org

Dedicated to the permanent and temporary communities of the island of Mallorca and all people who understand the value of giving and receiving in a state of eternal freedom.

Cala Varques Beach
Cala Varques

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