There has been a lot of comment recently on the changing tourism and social trends on the popular Holiday destination island of Ibiza. Once a rural backwater, where anonymity and privacy were respected and the only way to get there was via a long boat ride from mainland Spain. It was where the draft dodgers, Jews, and later the fleeing Nazi’s, fled to hide away from the law and persecution. That all began to change in the 70’s and 80’s when General Franco decided the best way forward for a struggling Spanish economy, was to invest in the mass tourism model. High rise buildings and hotels were thrown up on the coastlines of mainland Spain and the Balearic’s, and Ibiza was a small player in that movement. The Matutes family who now own much of the island, were the first to invest by building family friendly hotels on the unspoiled beaches of Playa Den Bossa, all of them still standing today but unrecognisable after extensive refurbishment, upgrading and re-design.
Culturally, the Hippies were the islands biggest infulencers, marijuana was their Instagram, a social way of meeting and interacting with people. Passing a joint broke down barriers and opened real life conversations, it was all about peace, respect and love. Pacha was the big player on the scene musically, opening in 1973 under the direction of the Urgell brothers Ricardo and Piti and it had free reign to hold all night long parties with some style, alongside the craziness that came later at Ku where bulls and other farmyard animals roamed freely. The unfashionable and hairy hippies, the ones with no money, frequented what is now Amnesia but at all times the energy that permeated from the island, was one of love, non judgement and respect. The island reflected that energy and became beautiful in the eyes of many. The pink pound was the first to invest in Ibiza as a magical island of fun and partying and it soon became Europe’s premier Gay Resort. Fast forward to 2019 and that energy has all but disappeared, replaced by the social diseases of globalisation, greed, hate, disrespect and a sense of entitlement.
The island of Ibiza is a very special one. I don’t need to tell that to many of those who live here and understand her unique power. It acts like a magnifying glass, reflecting the energy and emotions of the people who pass through her shores, alerting those willing to see the signs, to the health of their own lives and whats happening around them. The Hippies lived in a non technological society, they valued the simple things in life and were grateful for them. They gave something back by helping to build schools and sow the seeds for the organic and bio-diversity movement we see prominent on the island now. They understood that with entitlement came responsibility, if you wanted plastic free beaches, instead of complaining about it, start at home by using less plastic. If you don’t implement change on a personal level, then it could be seen as hypocritical to critisise a problem you are responsible for fueling. The Hippies were very good at understanding that life is symbiotic and finely balanced and what we take, we need to give back. Now that their presence is all but gone in Ibiza, is a reflection of how much things have changed.
Ibiza has never been the problem, its the people that inhabit her that cause all the social issues we are now witnessing. Residents are reacting to the fast pace of globalization and the change of energy around them, there is a general increase in outbursts of anger, impatience, disrespect and individual sense of entitlement. Everybody is complaining about something, just go onto either of the islands two big social media public opinion platforms, Ibiza Winter Residents or Cosas Que Pasan with close to 100,000 members, and you will get a flavor of the virtual shit thrown by people at each other. The recent street fighting around a musical event in San Antonio, increased attacks of rape and violence, is part of the energy Ibiza is reflecting right now. Everybody it seems wants to grab what they are entitled to, but very few want to take responsibility for the problem or give something back to the island. Nobody it seems wants to be social anymore, preferring to interact with their virtual friends and groups online instead of people across a table or in their company. But some say that is progress and we should not try to halt it.
That disconnect from the real world and in some cases doctors refer to it as reality, is a factor at play now. Money is the lifeblood of Globalization, and with increased globalization, Ibiza has inherited all its social problems. They say Cocaine is a sign that you have too much money in your life, and its not a coincidence that many in the Hippie movement will testify that when Cocaine first made its appearance on the island in the 80’s, things started to change, as the islands innocence was lost. In recent years I have watched as many Ibicenco family businesses have sold up to the big brand names, family hotels once the engine room of the islands economy, are now on the verge of extinction and Pacha, which was once the jewel in the crown of the islands cultural identity, is now owned by a faceless corporate entity. What was once free, now comes with a supplement or new tax, the recent levies on camper vans and increased tourist eco-taxes, show a real contempt for the freedom that Ibiza was once famous for.
So while we may all complain about how the island has changed and its not the same as it used to be, we as a society are responsible for those changes. We embraced commercialism and its greed, valuing style over substance and we fail to take responsibility for our actions, preferring to pass the problem to somebody else. It says something about our society when it was left to a 12 year old schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, to lead the fight against global warming and climate change. Money and how to obtain more of it, is what is driving change in Ibiza right now. Adult only hotels are more profitable than family hotels, day parties are making more money at the pool bars than nightclubs, brand names add surcharge to a service or product, and there is 20% added to the cost of a wedding in Ibiza, for no particular reason other than its an exploitative audience. Underground music is being replaced by EDM, as kids are so influenced by marketing and production these days while DJ’s fight over Billing position and contracts.
So my theory is, that what’s happening in Ibiza today, is a reflection of modern society in general. Right wing groups are on the rise, Brexit is causing conflict rather than unity which signified the fall of the Berlin Wall, divisions that Trump is rebuilding as Russia militarises its schools. Ibiza has always facilitated and tolerated social change in the past, but the people who are coming to the island today do not follow the Hippy dream, they follow different ideals and idols which are alien to Ibiza of old. In my opinion, for years to come, Ibiza will continue to be driven and influenced by money and be an adult playground for those who can afford it. I feel, the days of a simple, slow and uncomplicated life in Ibiza, are sadly numbered.