The Rocío Pilgrimage
Andalusia never stops, we have just been through Easter and April´s Fair and we are already getting ready for one of the most excitings events: The Pilgrimage of El Rocío, one of the most beautiful pilgrimages in the whole world, the pilgrims know as “rocieros” come from all parts of Spain, they come on horseback, in carriages and in covered wagons; by car, by coach and on foot; they are hundreds, thousands of “rocieros”; they all converge on El Rocio, an isolated settlement between three provinces: Huelva, Seville and Cádiz, right in the heart of Andalusia.
Brotherhoods, called “Hermandades” are now preparing this trip known as “El Camino”, that will end on the midnight hours between sunday and monday the 28th May, the climax of the celebration; it is recommended to join this “journey” on monday the 21st, to be a part of this very special celebration.
It is a long week of religious and festive days, a very spanish mixture that will delight visitors. The “romeros” , the pilgrims that make their way on foot are permanently in contact with the nature, wich helps to internalize their faith. In the other hand, the devotional feelings are shown with a positive and festive manner and at any step of this trip, pilgrims start to sing and dance flamenco, filling the night with their sad songs and hand-clapping flamenco rhythms, paying tribute to “La Blanca Paloma”, the Virgin of El Rocio.
It is an outstanding event that will touch every visitor´s heart. There are different routes to El Rocío, we are going to suggest the two most important:
Cádiz: going through the National Park: “Coto Doñana”
Watching this parade the time stops. Closing our eyes and being part of a scene that could be occuring 200 years ago: men, women, children, all dressed in their traditional costumes, walking for days to pay tribute to their Virgin.
During the day, the “romeros” walk, dance and pray to the “Sinpecados”, the wagons or mobile altars carrying the Virgins and brought from the churches of the 95 Hermandades (brotherhoods). When it gets dark they sleep under the protection of the sky, the stars and the Virgin of El Rocío.
El Camino de Sevilla: coming from Seville.
This is the most popular route to El Rocio. “La Juliana” is the spot where all the brotherhoods meet and camp together. Many pilgrims continue by “Lopaz” and then by “Villamanrique”, “La Raya Real” and “Ajolí”.
There are three very important moments: the first one, is the departure of the “Hermandades” –brotherhoods- from the Cathedral of Seville, the citizens of Seville and may celibrities will be there to support the Hermandades.
The second one, is the meeting in the “Quema” riber, very close to Seville, where children and “romeros” –pilgrims- that are going to El Rocío for their first time are baptized in scenes fulled of emotion.
The third one, is already in El Rocío, when the “Hermandades” from Seville will meet the “Blanca Paloma”, on Saturday the 26th of May.
The pilgrimage that has started one week before, ends in El Rocío the 27th of May. The Virgin, a carving from the XII century is inside the Church, placed between the marshlands. During this week this small village of just 2000 citizens, becomes to be third most populated city of Spain.
The midnight hours between Sunday and Monday are the climax of the festival, the moment everyone has been waiting for, when the Virgin of El Rocio is finally carried out of the Ermita and paraded around the town, passing above the heads of a million pilgrims to call at each of the brotherhoods houses, its candlelit passage accompanied the cheers of the crowd: 'Viva la Virgen del Rocio', 'Viva la Reina de las Marismas', 'Viva la Paloma Blanca'.
On monday morning or afternoon, after being tributed for over 10 or 12 hours by the love of thousands of pilgrims, the Virgin “La Blanca Paloma” –the White Dove-, will be taken back to the Church where will be waiting until the next year the visit of her pilgrims..
+ We recommend this book: Pilgrimages of Europe 4: El Rocio Spain & Santiago
* Post related to Andalusia: Horse Fair in Jerez
* Post related to Andalusia: April´s Fair Seville 2012