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Spain Savvy Culture Corner: El Rocío pilgrimage

The famous pilgrimage festivities of the Virgen del Rocío (literally, the “Virgin of the Dew”) are winding down this week and we wanted to dedicated a blog post to explain this cultural phenomenon to all those who have visited southern Spain or those who are considering a visit.  El Rocío is a big part of the culture in this area of Spain and we think it’s important for all travelers who visit this area to understand why.  If you are interested in seeing the pilgrimage for yourself up close and personal, Spain Savvy can make that happen in 2018 – and it’s never too early to start planning!

The history of El Rocío pilgrimage

El Rocío is a cult-like religious pilgrimage (Catholic in origin) dating back to the 13th century.  The legend says that a hunter happened upon an image of the Virgin Mary in the marshlands and the people became devoted to Her and ended up building a Basilica in the discovery spot.  The pilgrimage happens each year on Pentecost, including the week before and the week after, when brotherhoods from all over world (but the great majority from Andalusian provinces) devoted to the Virgen del Rocío take their own images of the Virgin out on the pilgrimage, sometimes walking for up to 100 miles and several days round trip.  El Rocío is a Wild West-type village located in the Huelva province about an hour south of Seville, on the cusp of Doñana National Park and very close to the Atlantic coast.

Experiencing the Rocio pilgrimage

As with most festivals in Andalucía, El Rocío is filled with color, music and emotion.  Devotees are hardcore and look very much forward to their pilgrimage each year.  Most walk alongside gypsy-style covered wagons with big oxen and horses carrying their loads but you’ll also see large tractors and 4×4 vehicles made for the rugged terrain.  The music accompanying the pilgrims is flamenco in undertones to match their outfits but infused with the typical flute music associated with the camino.  Once the pilgrims arrive at El Rocío, they set up camp at their brotherhood’s permanent houses and the days spent there are filled with celebration and prayer.

The most passionate part of the pilgrimage is the famous Salto de la Reja which may seem violent but is actually just a fanatic display of devotion.  It’s quite the sight to see as the different brotherhoods emphatically push their way over to the statue to be the ones who take her out for the official procession out the main door of the Basilica.


Your visit to the Rocío pilgrimage

You can also visit El Rocío any time of year.  Just an hour’s drive south from Seville, it makes for a lovely day trip with big doses of culture and natural beauty.  Contact us to begin planning your custom itinerary.

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