Pilgrimage to “El Rocio”
A lot of people go on a pilgrimage to El Rocio. Those who believe in heaven and those who don’t. A few hours after starting along the paths of Lower Andalusia, a unique form of relationship is established. Differences disappear. Hearts open. This is the miracle of El Rocío.
El Rocio (Huelva)
The Virgen has been venerated at this isolated site for over 800 years, and since 1758 the Romeria Del Rocio has been celebrated on Whitsuntide, the fiftieth day after Easter Sunday. There are really two parts to this celebration, the festival in Almonte and the actual pilgrimage that starts several days before.
Hundreds of “brotherhoods” from the surrounding villages and towns organize the processions that all end up in Almonte. Travellers (or “Romeros”) come from all over Andalucia on foot, on horseback or by oxcart. No motorized vehicles are allowed. Most of these pilgrims wear the traditional garb, women in bright gipsy-inspired flamenco dresses and men in the unique wide-brimmed “bolero” hats and short-cropped jackets associated with Andalusia. As they get closer to Almonte, the pilgrims camp out in the fields and forests of the surrounding Donana National Park.
All the Romeros arrive in the village of Almonte on today before dawn, and then the festivities really kick into gear. Accompanied by tambourines, flutes and guitars, the entire group strolls across the broad plains to the El Rocio shrine in the nearby marshes. A large silver shrine that contains an effigy of the Virgen is carried along by Almonte’s elite “Hermandad Matriz” brotherhood. The sound of firecrackers fills the air as the crowds cry “Viva la Reina de la Marisma” (“Long live the Queen of the Marshes”). Once everyone arrives at the shrine, mass is recited and the Virgen is paraded around the dusty fields for several more hours.