The changing face of Santa Gertrudis

August 5th, 2008 - 6:08 pm Posted in ibiza, Santa Gertrudis | Comments (0)
The enormous empty space of the church square

Santa Gertrudis as you’ve never seen it before
A village’s changing face

In Santa Gertrudis you can get the best cured-ham bocadillo and the best paella. It is home to one of the island’s most beautiful art galleries, has one of the best decoration stores, rustic bars, excellent restaurants, leather handwork, a goldsmith, an auction house, bookstores, art – not to mention the church and the playground – this place really is unique on the island. It’s always been this way, but now it’s all changed. Santa Gertrudis has received a new plaza…

For decades locals and visitors have been meeting in cosy town bars. They sat under shady trees out on the terraces of the few bars, talked about everything under the sun. It often went beyond just a glass of wine. The encounters were cordial and affectionate. A penniless but talented artist or two was often able to pay his tab with Vicente, the owner of Bar Costa, with a work from his studio. That’s how it was back in the good old days…

The new square was inaugurated with a big fiesta.

Life is ruled by change, which is as true on Ibiza as it is in Santa Gertrudis. After months under construction the new plaza was festively re-opened. It stretches from one corner of the village centre to the other. The road that used to run through the village is no more. The era of driving through on a scooter or in the car to see if you knew anyone sitting at the bars, to share a drink or chat with on
rickety stools, is no more.

However, this also means that the era of exhaust from cars and scooters wafting down onto your paella or worrying about falling into the street from the narrow pavement are also over. The era when cars parked in rows in front of the church, when metal ruled the church plaza, are finally, officially over. While it may have been convenient for drivers, it wasn’t doing the village any favours.

All of that now belongs to the past. The village centre is now a pedestrian zone, paved with light-yellow stones of pressed concrete. Unfortunately many of the trees fell victim to this progress. It will take years before the mini-crowns on the new plantlings will be able to provide real shade against the cruel summer sun on Ibiza.

The bars now have more space for tables and chairs but instead of the old trees, sunshades provide protection from the sun now

You may notice that a number of the older trees are marked with red crosses – this meant that they
were supposed to be felled – but IbizaNOW made a few phone calls. After our editor-in-chief spoke with the mayor of the village, who is also the mayor of Santa Eularia, Vicente Mari, a few of them were saved.

The mayor can’t be held responsible for the changes that have taken place. He was just putting into action a plan that had been approved years before by the municipal council. As for the yellow concrete bricks, they too aren’t his fault. The residents of Santa Gertrudis were given a choice of several different shades of paving stone and decided upon the one you see today.

Above: Before – Below: After…

Now the village centre has a yellow plaza that sticks out a bit like a sore thumb during the day, even blinding a few, and some claim that it makes the place even hotter in the summer. The dark tar pavement from before would, of course, have been more likely to heat up the place but, in the meantime, the shade is missing.

Local residents aren’t sure how they like their new village. Some like it, others find it’s less successful. Some of the older established business people, who would prefer not be named, put it thus, “It’s great that the cars can’t drive through the village any more, but the plaza as a whole isn’t charming. There’s
no shade, it reminds me of the Sahara. The surface would probably be good for a petrol station.”

At the moment the business owners are in negotiations with the municipality about how the cost of using the areas in front of their businesses to set up with tables and chairs, so discretion is the order of the day. In summary: There are no trees to provide shade, no green plants, no colourful flowers – and although the village centre heats up more than before the atmosphere is too cold. People are sad to say that the village character appears to have been lost. It’s as if they were in a tourist fairground…

On the other hand, there are some who like the new look. Toni, whose family has been running the tiny tobacco shop in the village centre for over a century says, “The young trees have to grow, but otherwise the plaza is an enrichment.” He is one of those who see this change in a positive light.

We can only recommend that those responsible make sure that the saplings are well cared for, so that they grow more quickly. Perhaps a gardener with green fingers and a good eye for colour could be employed too?

During the evenings it’s a completely different story. When the sun goes down the stone surface cools down and it becomes a place where, as always, many people come to chat, walk about, or meet for a drink. A place where children can play without the fear of being run over and people sit in front of the restaurants and bars. The gastronomic offerings haven’t suffered through the modernisation. There are now more restaurants, more choice businesses than ever before.

Along with the traditional establishments like the “Bar Costa” (cured hams), “Restaurant Santa Gertrudis” (paella) and “Es Canto” (chicken, lamb), a number of new designer restaurants with a
more international cuisine have also been added.

Yes, Santa Gertrudis has changed – but it is still worth visiting on a balmy Ibiza evening. Perhaps even more so than before, as the number of restaurants and designer shops have become more colourful. Of course many will be sad about the loss of the old charm. This we can completely understand…

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