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Spain's largest pilgrimage festival


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2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
The Blanca Paloma started her procession in the early hours of this morning. Over a million people were crammed into the small Huelva hamlet (about 100km south of Seville) today eager for a glimpse of the Virgen del Rocio.
It is the climax to the largest romeria pilgrimage in Spain which this year attracted 79 brotherhoods making their way, from various parts of Andalucía and Spain.
The Virgen Del Rocio has been celebrated at this isolated site for over 800 years. There are two parts to this celebration, the festival in Almonte and the actual pilgrimage that starts several days before.
The Virgen Del Rocio has been the patron saint of Almonte since the 15th century, when a hunter found a statue of the Virgin Mary in a tree trunk near the marshes. The devoted claim her intense powers can cure disease, infertility and mental disorders.
The pilgrimage is a pretty traditional affair. Hundreds of "brotherhoods" from the surrounding villages and towns organise processions that all end up in Almonte. Travellers (or "romeros") come from all over Andalucia on foot, on horseback or by cart. No motorised vehicles are allowed. Most of these pilgrims wear traditional clothes, women in bright gypsy-inspired flamenco dresses and men in the unique wide-brimmed "bolero" hats and short-cropped jackets associated with Andalusia. As they get closer to Almonte, the pilgrims camp out in the fields and forests of the surrounding Donana National Park.
For the next couple of days, the scene at El Rocio resembles a makeshift camp-out, a carnival, and a family reunion all at the same time. The crowds sing traditional songs and dance together in the fields. Snacks of tortilla, jamon, prawns and fried peppers are sold along with plenty of local wine and sherry. First-time pilgrims "baptise" themselves by dipping their hats in water and dousing themselves. In a day or so, the crowds will disperse and the fields of El Rocio will become quiet again.
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Greetings from Merida. Salvador and I walked by one of those Romerias. It was 1 to 2kms long of wagons pulled by bulls, donkeys, horses. Each wagon held a family or others and they were decorated. Women in their flamenco dresses, men dressed elegantly or in peasant clothing. Shotguns would go off every few minutes. Drummers and pipers making music. It was really cool. I have a pic of Salvador with a couple of ladies in their dresses and drinking beer and smoking. I would have asked, but was too shy, if we could join them for that evening. When in the next towns that was all the talk. At correos, the grocery.... they are all very excited.

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