Four Decades Of Punta Arabi

Posted on July 13, 2018

Words: Jason Eybe

Images: Tamara Sini

Ibiza 2018 marks a special anniversary for the Punta Arabi Hippy Market, celebrating 45 years of showcasing the creative talent that lives and works on the island. I still remember the arduous moped ride from San Antonio in 1982, where I first set eyes on what was then a much smaller, less organised collection of stalls. The spirit was there, however and while the market itself has changed in many ways, that feeling of community, togetherness and family is still very much evident amongst the artisans that populate it today.

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To think of my first encounter, which was nowhere near the original opening in 1973 and the time that has passed since, the evolution of the market, the changing of the guard and the number of people from all over the world that have experienced it since is a humbling thought. When we found out that there are still several original members participating in the weekly Wednesday market, we had to have a chat. Francesca is originally from San Francisco and has been on the island since 1985, Spanish born Raul has been performing with his drums for many years and Maria, who has been involved since 1975, showcasing American Indian craftsmanship in her stall. Three members of the Punta Arabi family that have seen the market evolve dramatically around them.

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We found Francesca in her stall, surrounded by an array of fantastic hats. She was quick to point out that the 45-years hasn’t changed that much. “To me it hasn’t changed that much,” she says. “Of course the word Hippy has a controversial history and tourists come here to see some of us that have lived through that period or young people. What’s special about it is that there is nowhere in the world where you have a market that’s even called a Hippy Market.” Francesca is right, of course, when we made our journey all those years ago, it was the allure of meeting the hippies more than the love of shopping that drew us there. “I was 17 in 1967 and that was the summer of love,” she continues. “I was living in Southern California and while Southern California had the surfer movement and was sunny and nice, Northern California was where it was kind of happening. They had psychedelic music bands and a lot of arts and crafts fairs, as I’ve always been attracted to music and arts and crafts all my life, I migrated up to San Francisco in the late 60’s, early 70’s. I made little purses, I hand embroidered them; I made combs for longhaired ladies with beads and feathers in them and those sorts of things.”

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Music has played a big part in the Punta Arabi Hippy Market from its inception, and remains a focal point today, with live performances every week. Francesca dabbles with her guitar now and then, most notably through her band Summer Of Love, finding the time to juggle between her hats and the music. If you’ve ever visited the Hippy Market, you couldn’t have failed to notice another long standing member of the community, Raul. Spanish born Raul has been drumming every Wednesday for as long as he can remember. “I play an imitation of the African Djembe,” he tells us. “It’s actually made in Ibiza from the pita plant, by a friend of mine who is an expert. It’s an imitation so it makes a slightly different noise than the original Djembe, which for me, is even better. My drum can make rhythm and melodies sometimes.” Raul’s smile is as infectious as hos drumming as he tells us about the things he likes most about playing at the Hippy Market. “To see the reaction of the children, especially the babies,” he explains. “They all love the drumming and they smile and dance along with it.”

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I was looking forward to meeting Maria, who arrived at the market two years after it opened, so she would have been there during my first visit. Maria started off selling homemade cakes with ingredients she picked herself. Back then there would be between 30 and 50 people manning stalls, fast forward to now and that number has grown to between 500/ 600. We found Maria surrounded by the most spectacular Native American Indian head dresses and other jewellery and accessories. It was an interesting jump from homemade baking to these colourful concoctions and had to ask her if there was a story behind it. “I was very interested in American Indian Philosophy,” she explains. “I was interested in bringing some chiefs and shaman here and making ceremonies with friends. I think Ibiza with the Hippy movement has a lot to do with Indian Americans this search for freedom and peace is pretty much the same, I like it very much.” With over four decades of history in the Hippy Market, who better to comment on whether it has maintained its authenticity. “The market has retained its authenticity in some ways,” Maria declares. “Mostly when you go around the artisanal streets and see the people that still do it in the same way, which means going in the winter to India, Indonesia, Nepal, and buying things or make their things there before bringing them here for the summer to sell.”

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For me, someone that experienced the market in ’82, I can’t help notice the obvious change in the market as a spectacle. Nowadays it is much bigger and more organized and that’s to be expected, especially when you consider how popular it has become and the number of people that now walk through those gates every Wednesday. The magic feeling that I got when walking around back in the day was still there this time around. The wonder at the creative talent that was on show and the amazement at the fantastic characters and the freedom of spirit that they portrayed is as strong today as it was to my much younger self, who was more relieved to have survived the moped journey through the island than anything else. If you want to sample an authentic slice of Ibiza, then Punta Arabi has got to be on your bucket list. Spend the day, talk to the people, sample the fantastic food and enjoy the warmth of the hospitality. There really is nowhere else like it on the planet!

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