"El Rocío" El Rocío by pure1942

El Rocío Travel Guide: 6 reviews and 45 photos

El Rocío Pilgrimage

While in Andalucia on a school twinning visit last May, I was delighted to discover that we were lucky enough to be visiting the area during the annual pilgrimage to El Rocío. Even better was the fact that a teacher from the school we were visiting had arranged for us to make the trip to El Rocio during the festival.
The visit was an unforgetable experience made even more special by the warm welcome extended to us by our hosts in El Rocio, bearing in mind that the festival is not exactly a tourist attraction and doesn't advertise itself as such. The festival is regarded very seriously by the brotherhoods of the 'Virgen del Rocio' who are based all over Spain and make the pilgrimage every year to El Rocio. We were very aware of the privilege of being invited along to the festival and our inclusion in the festivities.

El Rocio Festival

Andalucia is famous for its pilgrimages or "romerías" (so called because pilgrims traditionally walked to Rome) to religious shrines around the region.
The most famous of all these 'romerías' is the pilgrimage of devotion to the Virgen del Rocío, in El Rocío. Over a million people from all over Spain and Andalucia make the long pilgrimage to the tiny village of El Rocio to pay homage to the statue of the "Madonna of the Dew". The pilgrimage has roots as far back as 1280.

In accordance with tradition the pilgrims arrive by horseback from all over Andalucia and Spain with the men and women all dressed in traditional dress. The men dressed in white shirts, black trousers and riding boots and the women wearing brightly coloured gypsy dresses, many also wearing riding boots. They arrive to the village singing traditional pilgrim songs and parade through the sandy streets (no tarmac or gravel in light that the majority of travel is by horseback!!! - imagine your typical wild west town)
The festival reaches it's climax on the weekend before Pentecost Monday. In the early hours of the Monday the Virgin is carried from the church by the fanatical pilgrims who climb over the railings inside the church to take the statue from it's altar where it stays for the rest of the year.

Nightlong Festivities!

For the entire week leading up to Monday and especially on the Sunday night and early hours of Monday morning, the normally quiet village of El Rocio is transformed into a huge festival where parties break out in the houses in the village. The rest of the year El Rocío is virtually a ghost town, with it's deserted streets. This is because most of the towns large buildings are owned, maintained and dedicated to the various hermandades (brotherhoods) of Andalucia, and are usually only used during the pilgrimage where they bring their own statue of the Virgin to join the Virgin of El Rocío. Most of the other houses in the town are also owned and occupied by families who come for the pilgrimage. These houses, which remain unihabited for much of the year, host parties with food and drink provided by the hosts and music and flamenco dancing provided by the visitors. These parties can last for hours before moving onto another house, where the another party gets going.
The experience of this night will live with me for ever and is one I feel so privileged to have witnessed, as there are few 'outsiders' who can claim to have been present for so much of the festival and to have been welcomed so warmly into the houses of the brotherhood members to participate in the festivities. We actually met two English visitors who said they had tried to go to the festival but were so intimidated that they had to leave. Bear in mind that this festival is NOT tourist orientated and should be taken seriously by anyone planning to visit during the festival.

  • Last visit to El Rocío: May 2007
  • Intro Updated Mar 6, 2008
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pure1942

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