Scribbler in Seville

Ready for El Rocio

Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora del Rocio

Every year, in May, Andalucia plays host to one of the biggest Catholic pilgrimages in the world. One million people descend on a small town which looks like something out of a Wild West movie.

"Reserved for horses" - tie up your mount and have a beer.

Typical house in the town of El Rocio

Hermandades (brotherhoods) leave from all over Spain, but especially from the provinces of Huelva, where the town of El Rocio is, and Seville. They spend a few days of wild partying, and each has its own house, complete with stables for the oxen and horses, bedrooms and even a chapel. Not many would dispute the fact that religion is just an excuse for another full-on Andalucian all-day-all-night hard-drinking, dancing and singing fiesta. You can see the different hermandad houses around the town – this one is for the Triana hermandad, from Seville.

House of the Triana hermandad

This afternoon, I saw some ox carts rumbling through our local town. They had padding on their foreheads, to help them practise and prepare for pulling the heavy loads: trailers full of rocieros on their way to sing the praises of the adored Paloma Blanca – the Virgen del Rocio. For it She who is the purpose behind this romeria.

Oxen with padded heads

Each town has a number of carts which head off to El Rocio in a slow, steady procession, completely blocking the roads for a few hours when they leave, and then again when they return.

They are accompanied by a man with a stick who goads them on – here’s a photo from another romeria, our local one, but you can see how they look dressed up in their finery; they have a much shorter journey than the El Rocio traffic.

Oxen at Romeria de Torrijos

You even get flamenca dresses which are specially designed for El Rocio – looser for horse-riding, and with leather details for the fashionista rociera. Vicky Martin Berrocal, who designed the traje below as part of her 2011 collection, loves using the traditional long-strapped cross-body leather bags as accessories in her fashion show. They’re also practical – where else are you going to put your mobile phone?

El Rocio dress by Sevillian fashion designer Vicky Martin Berrocal

So, anyway, back to this afternoon. It’s a jolt back to Spain of the 19th century, to be leaving the park with your kids and see a series of ox carts being driven along the road.

Man with ox-cart in Valencina

We also see laden horses and carts along the country road where we live; their load is usually straw or wood. No emissions, no road tax – it’s a cheaper and environmentally-friendly alternative. And it reminds you how close the Spanish still are to their land, and how in tune with it – something which I find curiously reassuring, in today’s world of fast-moving technology and constant need to be in-the-know. And from my own personal point of view, I love living so close to the city, but also seeing a man unhurriedly driving his cart along the road outside my house. One foot in each world – suits me perfectly.

One thought on “Ready for El Rocio

  1. Pingback: On the road to El Rocio « Scribbler in Seville

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