Scribbler in Seville

Romeria de Torrijos in Valencina de la Concepcion (Sevilla)

Today was our local romeria, the Romeria de Torrijos. I have written more about it in more detail on my other blog.

A romeria (pilgrimage) is a typical event in Spain, when the people from the town or village carry their Virgin (in this case, de la Estrella) from the parish church to a shrine, sanctuary or other place of worship in the countryside. It’s also an excuse for a big party, obviously, as Andalucians do so well. The most famous pilgrimage in Spain is El Rocio, which takes place in late May here in Andalucia. In our village – and this is the big attraction – the destination is the Hacienda de Torrijos, a former Arab fort, situated down a tree-lined avenue looking out over rolling fields dotted with little bosques (woods).

The chapel where the virgin finally stops is in the patio of the hacienda, entered through an archway, and as pìcturesque a scene as you could hope for, with hundreds of horse riders milling around, and women dressed in their flamenco dresses, flowers in their hair,

ox-drawn gypsy caravans (carretas, 4th pic down) decorated in brightly coloured paper flowers, mule-drawn carts (pulled by anywhere between one and six of the beasts). Kids are dressed in their super-cute mini-outfits: boys in jinete suits (grey, blue or brown cropped jacket, high-waisted trousers, boots, wide-brimmed hat, and – the final touch – a scarf tied round the waist) – the adult horsemen sometimes wear leather chaps, very Midwest cowboy; and girls in tiny feria dresses in bright colours: blue, red, pink, with colour-coordinated flower and shawl, and with little brown leather purses on belts round their waists, as the final rustic touch (as opposed to the more chic city ferias). You can see some of them below.

This year we arrived too late for the fabulous procession down the avenue, only catching the last part, with the tractor-pulled carriolas (trailers). These are also colourful – passengers often wear T-shirts bearing the group’s name, in the same colour as the trailer’s decorations (see the symphony in turquoise, below) but not anywhere near as extraordinarily pretty and photogenic as the oval-framed Wild West carts, carretas.

The usual order is: amazonas and jinetes (horsemen and horsewomen, above); then carretas; then simpler horse-drawn carts; then carriolas. Each cart is followed by its own group of romeros (pilgrims) singing traditional songs. After a mass in the chapel, everyone has lunch (brought in the carriola or carreta, in boxes stored under the benches) and then dances all afternoon until sundown, when they pack up and go home (not forgetting to take the Virgin too, of course).

I have to say that I am far more interested the sartorial side – the whole spectacle – than the religious side (though this is important; this romeria has an interesting origin, dating back over 400 years) as, I think, are most Spanish participants. I love the colour, the beautiful Arab horses, the plodding oxen, the singing… it is wonderfully photogenic, although today the sun was in and out, and walking around was a challenge, with churned-up muddy fields whose clods clung to your shoes, boots or, if you’re incredibly impractical like me, flip-flops. For days before, people were talking about whether or not it would go ahead at all; rain was forecast and sure enough, yesterday it poured and made unpaved roads into quagmires. But a bit of mud is not going to put Andalucians off a party (sorry, pilgrimage).

I was in a quandary as to whether or not my daughter should wear her flamenco dress – the skies threatened rain, and it was hot in the sun, but quite chilly in the shade. In the end, having washed it carefully and hung it up to minimise the creases and avoid ironing it, I chickened out and put her in jeans and a T-shirt. I was concerned about her getting it messed up with mud, food etc (it is on loan from a friend), though thankfully we missed the rain by about half an hour. And in fact, it didn’t really matter, since we weren’t actively participating – we were just spectators. We were invited for a drink and tapa at someone’s carriola, which we accpeted, but very much on the fringes; we’re newbies in town.

Hopefully in the future, we’ll be dressed up and joining in with the eating, drinking, dancing and singing (though not the praying). An Andalucian must-do, going on a romeria.

This is my favourite pic from this set (all taken on my mobile phone) – with the wide open sky, barely a hint of modern life, the carts and the women in their dresses, it could almost be something from the Wild West, 19th-century US pioneers.

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