Bandit! This word sounds like a movie from the American West, but surely at one time it was pronounced many times on our island. Today we will talk to you about the bandits in Mallorca and the circumstances that surrounded them.
Time and population
The 16th and 17th centuries were not easy in Mallorca, as there were many popular revolts and widespread chaos. The population on the island was not much, especially if we compare it with today: in 1503 there could be between 35/55,000 people and in 1591 between 110/115,000 people, but that represented the highest population density in all of Spain (26 inhabitants/square kilometre) and the resources were not surplus to requirements. Currently (2020) on our island there are about 1 million inhabitants.
Circumstances in which bandits appear in Mallorca
The majority of the population, between 70 and 80 %, lived in the villages and were subject to many taxes, while the dominant classes had great privileges. In addition, much depended on how the crops were, and in several years they had been very bad, causing hunger and hardship. As if all this were not enough, several epidemics were also declared, at which time thousands of people easily died, further aggravating the situation. With all this breeding ground came the revolts, the movement of the “Germanies”.
1521, Germania breaks out
Germania was a mass revolt, a struggle of the popular classes against the ruling classes. What he wanted was a reform of the public economy, abolishing certain taxes. In Mallorca it began in a moderate manner but turned violent with assaults on Bellver Castle and besieging cities such as Alcudia, where some authorities took refuge. The king’s troops, who came in ships from the Peninsula, had to intervene, with strong repression and hundreds of executions. Finally the movement was annihilated and the economy of Mallorca was very much affected.
The following years, many, were not peaceful and in fact banditry proliferated, as a continuation of Germania. Hunger and need were pressing, for many times the crops were bad and insufficient. But what abounded were men without work or money and willing to do anything. One of the few ways out was to engage in banditry and all sorts of crimes were committed in that environment: farm robberies, highway robberies, murders and any other misdeeds imaginable.
They were grouped in gangs, their life was itinerant, sleeping in the mountains and outdoors or sometimes hidden in farm sheds. Obviously it was not a comfortable life and it was full of misery, deprivation and danger because the law was persecuting them. On many occasions, these crimes were paid for with their lives, as they were condemned to hang. The most macabre thing came later, since for public chastisement, the hanged men were dismembered and their heads and limbs were displayed for all to see.
Did you know that in Palma there is a tower in the Almudaina Palace called the “Torre dels Caps” (Tower of the Heads)? There they hung and displayed the heads of the hanged men for a long time.
The last bandit
There were many gangs of thugs and some of them became very well known. This is what happened to the “Cuadrilla de Selva”, with 14 members and protected even by chaplains, knights and landowners, who gave them weapons and sustenance in exchange for favouring their own interests.
However, every era comes to an end and on the 15th of January 1729, the last leader of a gang of bandits, Mateu Reus, alias Rotget, was executed in Palma.
More than 200 years of revolt and instability had passed in Mallorca and finally the law managed to impose itself on the chaos.
The cover photo shows an ex-vote with a depiction of a crime. The actions of the bandits in Mallorca took away the sleep of every population with a feeling of insecurity that added to the attacks from the other side of the sea. Defense towers were used on the island to monitor these attacks. Follow the link to read it: Películas de piratas