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Wednesday, March 21, 2012 (read 4039 times)

Romeria de El Rocio Pilgrimage

by Kimberly

The El Rocio Spanish celebration takes us on a dusty pilgrimage through the Andalusian countryside where thousands of people travel to the Guadalquivir River and celebrate with song, dance and food in homage to the Virgin of El Rocio.

The Huelva (Andalusia) pilgrimage Spain dates back all the way to September 1653 when the Virgin was appointed the patron saint of Almonte when a hunter found a statue of the Virgin Mary in tree trunk near the marshes. Believers say that the Virgin of El Rocio can cure disease, infertility and mental disorders. Since 1758, however, the tradition takes place on the Pentecost (50 days after Easter).

There are two main parts to this Spanish celebration, first the pilgrimage that starts several days prior and next the actual religious festival which takes place in Almonte.

Pilgrims come from far and wide, typically dressed in Andalusian traditional clothing and flamenco costumes with boots, to begin the pilgrimage on the Saturday at noon before Pentecost. Some travel by foot, some on horse, in carriages, or nowadays in 4 wheel drive vehicles.  Each confraternity journeys to the village of El Rocio where they will place their emblem on the shrine in a ceremony known as the Almonte Rosary ceremony.

On Sunday a mass is held and that night all the pilgrims pray the Rosary by candlelight. When the Immaculate Conception Emblem is taken to the shrine, the Virgin of El Rocio is then carried through the streets of the village. This culminates the religious aspect of the celebration and the journey home begins.

The traditional religious event mixes traditional Catholic and pagan beliefs and is celebrated by both locals and foreigners. Many city dwellers make their way to Huelva to take part in the Romería de El Rocío pilgrimage as an opportunity to get in touch with their roots and spend time outdoors in nature.

The event is fun filled with bright costumes, camping, music, food and other festivities. Traditionally, first time pilgrims will be baptized when they arrive to Almonte by dipping their hats in the water and pouring water on themselves. After the pilgrimage and religious ceremonies end, the pilgrims make their way home… undoubtedly with new friends, and the village becomes quiet again.


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Posted In: Spain, Tourism, Culture


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