WHAT IS EL ROCÍO?

 

The El Rocío pilgrimage is the most famous in the region and probably in Spain, Attracting every year nearly a million people from almost every town of Andalucía and the entire country. Spain has many pilgrimages in different places, but the El Rocio has cult status, and is the most important and most colorful. It follows on from Semana Santa (March/April), and the various spring ferias that are celebrated in Andalucía.

HISTORY OF EL ROCÍO

This devotion comes from the 13th century, when a hunter from the village of Almonte discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary in the trunk of a tree in the Doñana Park. A chapel was built in the place where the tree was located and began to be a place for pilgrimage. At the beginning it was only for local devotion, but in the 17th century, the brotherhoods of the nearby cities made the trip on Pentecost until here. In the 19th century, they arrived from all parts of Huelva, Cádiz and Seville, on a trip of up to four days. During the 20th century, the cult of the Virgen del Rocio spread more and more, and today pilgrims come from as far away as Barcelona and the Canary Islands, not to mention tourists traveling from abroad, around Europe and even beyond, to worship the Virgin.

WHERE, WHEN AND HOW IT IS CELEBRATE?

El Rocío is a small village in the town of Almonte, in the province of Huelva, in the heart of the Doñana Park, very close to the coast. Most of the pilgrims, known as "rocieros", approach the city through the park. El Rocío is an extensive place, very wild as a western style: the roads are not paved, there are usually filled with dust with the passage of people, and you can find places to tie horses. Although this is mainly because it is a place dedicated to the pilgrimage, and the sandy paths helps to the horses in the way. For four days, between the months of May or June, the Catholic brotherhoods and many faithfuls come here to pay homage to the Rocío Virgin, housed in her own hermitage in this town.

Until the 1950s, the city had only a few houses, and they all camped in their carriages. Now, each confraternity has its own house with stables, as well as a chapel of its own, each one with its own name. These houses are used throughout the pilgrimage for the brothers of the brotherhood and families. It's a time when everything is shared. It's like a kind of camping. With the advantage that spontaneous parties, open-air masses, horse races and competitions among brotherhoods are held. And a lot of music and dancing during all day accompanied by this natural art that Andalusians bring. It is one of the most joyful and colorful pilgrimages in the country. Perhaps by these things is also one of the most famous and important.

When the date coming (end of May or first of June) you can see the locals prepare the covered wagons and put on traditional Andalusian costumes: wide-brimmed hats and short suit for men and flamenco dresses for women - little bit different, less lustrous than at the April Fair- to go to the sanctuary. Some people still making the trip in the traditional way, on horseback, or in picturesque wagons covered as the gypsy style, which are adorned with flowers, fabrics that cover as curtains. The carriages are pulled by oxen or horses, whose yokes have decorated leather helmets and bells hanging around their necks

There are three main and traditional routes and start from Triana (Seville), Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Huelva. In addition, the beautiful part of this pilgrimage is that the rocieros must cross part of Doñana Park, which is a protected area full of wildlife, to arrive to the sanctuary, as well as rivers and different obstacles.

That is why it is said that feeling the true Rocío is a mixture of feelings: happiness, songs and celebration, confront of tears, sighs, silence, promise and expression of senses ... The largest pilgrimage in Spain expresses the most spectacular celebration of colors and joy.

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