Known by both spellings, Menorca is Spanish territory, found in the Mediterranean Sea and part of the Balearic Islands. The name originates from its size, being smaller than nearby Mallorca (Majorca). The capital is Mahón.
Throughout the summer, fiestas take place in different towns on Menorca. Celebrating each town’s fiesta started back in the 14th-century. The international Opera Week and the Organ festival along with the summer music festival are all favourite events on the island. All of them are held in Mahón.
Menorca’s cuisine embraces the Mediterranean diet, known to be very healthy. Although many locals have now adopted modern ways of life, they still uphold certain old traditions when it comes to food.
Roman occupation of Hispania created growth in the marine trade between the Spanish and Italian peninsulas. Consequently, pirates took significant advantage of the strategic location of the Balearic Islands and the flow of sea traffic. As far back as Roman time, pirates raided ships using both Menorca and Mallorca as bases. As a result of this, the Romans invaded Menorca, partly to stop this practice. By 123 BC both islands fell entirely under Roman control. The islands were later incorporated into the District of Hispania Citerior.
Jews of Menorca
Long ago the island had a Jewish population. Jewish men and women in 418 AD ranked highly in the esteem of the islanders Christians. Nonetheless, this peaceful coexisting community was disrupted by the ruling parties, who later insisted on forced baptism for all.
This led to the expulsion of the ruling Jewish elite. Furthermore, synagogues were destroyed, creating a forced acceptance of Christianity. However, many Jews remained within their faith while outwardly professing to be Christian. Therefore, a lot of Jewish families continued to survive.
Much later in history, Menorca became a British possession in 1713. The Governor-General was Richard Kane. This period saw the island’s capital moved to Port Mahon, a naval base established in the town’s harbour. Shortly afterwards, the British actively encouraged the immigration of foreign non-Catholics, which included Jews.
But this reinstatement did not last. In 1781, Louis des Balbes de Berton de Crillon invaded Menorca. He ordered all Jews to leave, giving them only four days to do so. At that time, about 500 people made up the Jewish community. Four Spanish ships transported them all to the port of Marseille.
Menorca stayed loyal to the mainland Spanish Government during the Spanish Civil War. The rest of the Balearic Islands supported the Nationalists. The island did not see combat, except for some aerial bombing by the Italian Air Force.