Ghetto Heaven: San Antonio v Magaluf – by Joan Lluis Ferrer

Joan Lluis Ferrer is an award winning author and journalist at the Ibiza daily newspaper, the ‘Diario de Ibiza’. He is one of San Antonio’s most vocal critics and his polarising commentary on Ibiza’s 2nd largest town is always interesting if not always entirely correct.
He wrote the award winning book “Ibiza: The Destruction of Paradise” and has now followed it up with his new title  called “Journey to Trash Tourism” detailing what he believes is wrong about certain elements of tourism in some of Spain’s most popular resorts. 

Here he talks candidly with his own newspaper about his book and what he discovered during his research. Translated in it entirety he makes some valid points but does Sr Ferrer understand the British psyche? What do you think?

Diario de Ibiza: What is ‘Trash Tourism’ as referred to by the title?

Joan Lluis Ferrer: I define it as the type of tourism that is not only crowded but their habits are completely incompatible with the collective well-being but also constitutes a danger to the economy itself. It is tourism characterised by alcohol and drug abuse, revelry without control. It’s dangerous to those who practice it because of certain dangers such as a balcony fall or an overdose. The other key feature is causing problems of coexistence wherever it is and in its most advanced stage it causes the residents to leave their own town.

DI: The Book is divided into 4 areas of the Mediterranean: Lloret de Mar (and Salou), Barcelona, San Antonio and Magaluf. Why these 4 places?

JLF: These are 4 areas ranging from less to more conflict. The 1st grade is Lloret and Salou, where ‘Trash Tourism’ is confined to a fairly specific geographical area and the rest of the people have a fairly normal pace of life. Then we went to the old town of Barcelona, with the Raval, Barceloneta and Gothic quarter, which is in an advanced stage because there is not only a tourism binge but is causing many residents to leave their homes for the inconvenience it causes, entire neighbourhoods. The 3rd phase is the West End of San Antonio. The process of flight of the resident population is much more advanced as is the process of replacing traditional stores for fast food joints and club ticket outlets. San Antonio is replacing the resident local population with those of immigrants who can put up with lower prices and that lifestyle. Then there is the upper stage, which is Magaluf. Magaluf is the capital of ‘Trash Tourism’ in Spain. It differs from San Antonio as there are very few residents there and the predominance is drunken tourism. In San Antonio there is some vestige of normal life, Magaluf is a theme park of alcohol.

DI: Are these phases progressive? San Antonio in is in phase 3, will it soon be in phase 4?

JLF: That’s the conclusion I have drawn. If San Antonio remains the same then within 10 years it will be a Magaluf. In the absence of measures those who have taken control are the business people in the industry of drunkenness, which incidentally are no longer local entrepreneurs but above all British.  In all these places; Barcelona, San Antonio or Magaluf there is a landing mass of entrepreneurs, especially British, who specialise in binge tourism. If you are looking for pub crawls there are internet companies advertising with photos and videos with drunk people on the ground, vomiting between containers … and their customers are no more than 18 to 25 years old.


DI: Are these youngsters searching for this type of holiday or do they find it?

JLF: There are two types of cases: Firstly the case of those who go looking for it , those who want a holiday to get drunk and fall on the floor. Then there are many cases where a kid falls from a balcony purely because they had the bad luck of going to San Antonio or Magaluf. They were the kids that their parents paid for their trip to Spain after finishing their studies. The parents know it is a group tour and think they will be fine. They have no idea where they are going. They know that there are beaches, nightclubs and fun but they could not suspect the degree of non-control. Many of these kids who go to the pub crawls know they are going to drink but they are not hard-core drunks or people who take drugs. In the book there is a teacher who says that many of these people who kill themselves don’t even get drunk in their country of origin. Yes, they go out with friends, yes they have 2 or 3 three drinks but they aren’t inveterate drunks.


DI: So they neither drink or take drugs to the extreme in another environment?

JLF: Nor in any other circumstances. They do it here purely because they are here. If you are in a group of people that take you to get drunk then what do you do? You get drunk, stagger back to the hotel, the balcony door is open, you fall and you kill yourself. If we profile many of these kids who are killed falling off the balcony we can see that they had brilliant academic notes and exemplary records, healthy people who had the bad luck to fall here.


DI: So you say ‘Pub Crawls’ seem to ‘induce’ or cause these deaths. A responsibility nobody assumes?

JLF: What you have to understand is that the bars that rely on young drunken tourism, and there are many in the West End and Magaluf, are endangering the lives of many young people and not only that but they are killing many of these young people every summer. Every year in Ibiza 5 or 6 kids die from falling off a balcony. Between Mallorca and Ibiza 32 young people have died ‘balconing’ from 2010 to 2013. It is an inducement to get drunk and kill themselves. Everyone is free to drink alcohol and take drugs, what we cannot have is an establishment that induces it in such a savage way through websites that should be banned.


DI: Pub crawls are permitted by law?

JLF: They’re banned but as with so many other things everyone seems to turn a blind eye. Local laws forbid them but in real life everything is permitted. In San Antonio there are laws to cover everything but almost nobody complies.  The pub crawl is an activity prohibited in most Spanish tourist towns but it still goes on.  Instead of banning it some places such as Magaluf allow it with regulation where there has to be monitors, a maximum number of attendees but I’ve seen with my own eyes that the regulations weren’t fulfilled. Many of these activities are banned but tolerated and there is a total permissiveness.

DI: Do you think that this situation is reversible?

JLF: What is amazing is the power of this industry to establish themselves and challenge the rules that exist.  They are a power to which public institutions are totally ineffective. In San Antonio we are tired of seeing it. They pass through the limits of any mandatory law. Public administrations are those that have to act decisively but the hundreds of complaints that are received every summer are against prostitution, drug trafficking, closing times that are not met and noise.  In the end the sanctions are negligible, they open a file but it ends up in the trash.


DI: Why is this happening?

JLF: It’s a mystery. I attribute it to institutional apathy, although politicians in question tell you they have no means to deal with the avalanche of complaints. What I cannot understand is that there are means to process the flood of planning permissions with which is urbanizing Ibiza by leaps and bounds and requires processing yet there are no means to force these ‘Binge Bars’ to close and these bars are destroying our image and putting the lives of young people at risk. There is a saying that “you can’t do everything” which is what encourages this to continue. There have been a few strong sanctions, recently San Antonio Town Hall dealt with a bar due to excessive noises but they may order a closure but we see that nothing has closed. There is a dereliction of duties, they have the skills but no will. We’ve been 40 years with this scourge that is the West End.


DI: The West End is 40 years old?

JLF: Yes, yes, it’s stagnant there. Ibiza goes ‘Luxury and High End’ and we have San Antonio which in summer is a madhouse outdoors. And in winter it is an abandoned place.


DI: How was the experience of visiting these places?

JLF: It was born from a personal curiosity because in the end journalism is that, a curiousity about how things are. I wanted to know how far the West End had gone, more or less of a disaster than Magaluf, more or less than Lloret, understand it’s place so I went to these sites to see. I already wish that San Antonio was more like Lloret de Mar. There in the Avenue of nightclubs are patrol cars of the ‘Mossos d’Esquadra’ (similar to Guardia Civil) while the local police patrol every street in the area on foot and the rest of the town is immaculate. It will be a miracle the day we see this in San Antonio. In Salou the problem you have is with the ‘Saloufest’, which is total chaos but is limited to a time and a specific space. In Barcelona, you go to Barceloneta and other neighbourhoods and people are scared. They leave because they cannot stand the noise of groups that party until 6am. A neighbour told me that he was vomited on from a balcony above and when he complained they broke his window in retaliation. It is a real problem when tourist and residential accommodation are side by side.


DI: Well here the Government wants to legalise private apartments for holiday lets?

JLF: Biel Barcelo (Balearic Minister of Tourism) should take a walk through Barceloneta, the Gothic Quarter and Raval to see what is happening and then try to live in one of those apartments.


DI: And then you visited Magaluf?

JLF: That far exceeds San Antonio because it’s like a Disneyworld dedicated to drunks. In San Antonio there are many off licences with their bottles inside but in Magaluf they have them on the sidewalk in enormous pallets directly offloaded from cargo ships.  Up to 10 pallets of alcohol on the sidewalk, so big you can’t get past. Souvenir shops sell alcohol, tobacco shops are part toabcco part off licence at the same time … I do not know, it’s an amazing thing. All this oriented towards drink. Try to look for the residential part of Magaluf and it doesn’t seem to exist. There are some buildings where residents live but I really don’t know how they can live there?


DI: So you’ve seen everything?

JLF: It makes the hair stand up on your neck with the thought of your child going there.  We’ve all run riot in life but … that excess and the general induction to get drunk and get high, that’s another thing. In Magaluf I remember seeing a mother with a stroller with a baby dodging drunks at two in the morning at Punta Ballena next to a terrace with a load of messed up fortysomethings dancing on tables, these are scenes from another world.

Source: Diario de Ibiza

Original article in Spanish

Author: Martin Makepeace

Englishman living and working in Ibiza since 1991. Entrepreneur with a passion for villas, boats, sunsets and San Antonio. Read my blogs, listen to my podcasts and catch me on Radio One Mallorca every Tuesday morning.

4 thoughts on “Ghetto Heaven: San Antonio v Magaluf – by Joan Lluis Ferrer”

  1. The 4 resorts highlighted are easy targets for a Spanish national to criticise in an attempt to recover former Spanish values
    For every San Antonio there is a San Carlos or a Santa Eulalia or a Santa Gertrudis
    However this is not a Spanish issue Greece has Malia Kavos Turkey has Bodrum and most UK towns (I accept its more weekend than every night) has drunken enthusiasim
    It’s natural for JLF to crave a more sedate environment but the reality is people (yes normally young people) will explore and experiment until maturity and sensibility kick in ( in some cases – as with this respondent – it can be over 50 years before it kicks in)
    My point is if not San Antonio or Magaluf or Kavos or Malia – then where ????
    Also the 5 or 6 people a year who fall off balconies – is outrageous and obviously very sad – but it’s a headline as I’m sure there is a statistic that is equally depressing about drunk drivers or moped accidents or even building site accidents – all are preventable
    I cannot comment on Magaluf or Barcelona but as someone who lived in San Antonio for 8 years (actually summer seasons) I accept the atmosphere has become more complex as each year goes by
    But I wonder if we should look to blame the people who travel to San Antonio or the people who go there for 3 or 4 months simply to sell drugs or even fake watches with a threatening attitude people with no interest in the town or its people or its future
    Short term abuse has lasting consequences
    I will be in San Antonio in September – I will be cautious around certain street sellers looking to steal my phone but I will continue to marvel at the fantastic sunset from cafe Mambo I will cruise on a fantastic boat around the coast and I will chat with friends in Plastik as well as reminisce about Es Paradise and the Star Club But here is the thing – I will always go to Soul City right in the middle of the West End because I feel safe amongst friends (and the music is fab)
    JLF I welcome your questions about sustaining San Antonio and I believe the entrepreneurs who live and work there would welcome any attempt to improve its image and safety on the street
    But your focus should not be on the tourist or the people that live and work in San Antonio but in those with no heart in your country I love Spain I love Ibiza I don’t sell drugs I don’t sell watches and I don’t steal phones x


  2. Presumably stage 5 is when you wake up in a incident free megasafe urbanisation with Joan Lluis Ferrer as a neighbour. Then you would definitly have a suitable excuse to want to throw yourself off the nearest balcony.


  3. JLF has only repeated the sensational headlines of the past, Yes there are bad examples of behaviour by tourists letting their hair down. but there are so many other good examples that never seem newsworthy. The work of 24/7 for instance or the recent actions by bar owners to challenge the street crime. It is funny that JLF places the noise from bars as equally significant as drug dealing and prostitution. In fact the noise issue seems to have been the only thing that has been policed. San Antonio, Magaluf and other places have their problem couple of streets and areas. Yet the local business owners and workers get little support from the council and the authorities to improve the standards. So come on JLF why not think of ways of improving the Ibiza situation for local businesses and workers- (they are the ones who pay your wages)


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