HUELVA, CORDOVA, JAEN, SEVILLE, GRANADA, ALMERIA
There are numerous pilgrimages to holy places in Andalusia. The largest is the pilgrimage of the Virgen of El Rocío which has been celebrated since 1280 at a hermitage near Almonte (Huelva). At the end of May or beginning of June nearly one million people, from all origins, travel to the village surrounding the hermitage, near the marshes at the mouth of the Guadalquivir river. The participants arrive walking, on horseback, or by road. They are members of one of the hundreds of brotherhoods that participate in the pilgrimage.
They leave their towns and cities on the Wednesday before the Pentecost. They are well provisioned and travel, for three or four days, to the music of drums and flutes. They sleep in fields or the forests of the Doñana National Park. On Monday, before dawn, when all the romeros have arrived at the village, the Almonte townsmen carry the Virgin on their soulders, through the streets, to each of the houses of the different brotherhoods. When the arduous ceremony is completed the Virgin is returned to the hermitage and the travellers begin their trip home.
The last weekend of April hosts another renown pilgrimage to the 13th century Virgin of La Cabeza in Andújar (Jaén). The Virgin is hoisted on shoulders and transported for more than thirty kilometres. The members of more than forty brotherhoods take turns carrying the figure in an event that draws half a million spectators. The Virgin of Setefilla pilgrimage in Lora del Río (Sevilla) is also important; during the transportation the Virgin is covered with silk cloaks to protect it from the dust. The journey, on foot, lasts twelve hours. A squad of gunmen pay homage with gunpowder salutes.
San Benito in Obejo (Cordova) is another unique pilgrimage which is celebrated with war dances to the rythm of lutes, guitars, and tambourines; the same province hosts the pilgrimage of Los gitanos in Cabra on the third Sunday in June. In Moclín (Granada) fifteen thousand people congregate to parade a painting which represents the so called Cristo del Paño which is believed to cure female sterility. The custom of a procession of a religious painting is repeated in Cazorla (Jaen). The pilgrimage of the Virgen del Mar (Virgin of the Sea), the patroness of Almería, begins on the first Sunday of January. It is the festivity of the year on the Eastern Andalusian coast. The virgin is transported, on a carriage decorated with flowers, to the hermitege at Torre García where it remains until the last Saturday of August before being returned to the port of Almeria. In other parts of the Almerian coast, seafaring processions are held in honour of the Virgen del Carmen. Fishermen decorate their vessels and sound their horns in honour of their patroness.