El Rocio Festival

EL ROCIO (I) -What it is and how it is celebrated-, El Rocío -Huelva-

 El Rocío is the most popular pilgrimage in all of Andalusia during which more than one hundred brotherhoods gather to pay homage to the virgin of ‘El Rocío’. An incredible number of people exceeding one million attend the festival attracted by the amazing mix of religious worship and Andalusian folklore.

From the 29th of May to the 1st of June 2020.

Rocio Pilgrimage
People walking around the Simpecado and some horse riders waiting for them on a side of a road.

 The village of El Rocío

The Schrine of ‘El Rocío’ is located at the southern limits of the Municipality of Almonte, Huelva, very close to the Doñana National Park. It is a magical unpaved village, on the banks of a blue watered lake called  ‘Charco de la Boca’, where it is not difficult to believe that you have been transported back in time.

About the Brotherhoods

Most of the Brotherhoods are from Andalusia but there are a few from other Spanish regions and some are from outside the Spanish borders. The one thing they have in common is a ‘Simpecado’, a standard which normally has an image of a virgin and a feature identifying the brotherhood. They are led by pairs of oxen with decorated yokes with bells around their necks, heralding the arrival of the ‘Simpecado’, which becomes the heart of the pilgrimage.

The Pilgrimage of El Rocío

Leaving behind clouds of dust, the ‘simpecados’ lead the way followed by hoards of pilgrims onfoot, horse back, on tractors, gypsy style wagons  and still more ox carts with gaily covered platforms.

Many of the pilgrims are dressed in traditional Andalusian costumes; colourful Flamenco dresses as well as the, more suitable for walking, ‘rociera skirts’ for the women, short jackets and tight horse riding breeches with leather boots which are good for the dirt tracks, caps and broad-brimmed hats for the men and, besides, many people can be seen wearing the heavy medals depicting an image of the virgin.

Rocio Pilgrimage Huelva
Children wearing traditional costumes are dancing in front of the priest and surrounded by pilgrims.

How it is celebrated

Because of the distances they must travel, some of the brotherhoods may start their pilgrimage as many as seven days before the Saturday of Pentecost, the day on which the brotherhoods with their “Simpecados” present themselves at the Shrine of ‘El Rocío’.

Rocio Pilgrimage Festival
Many women wearing traditional costumes are singing while it is the turn of their Brotherhood to be presented in front of the schrine of the virgin.

In the morning of the Sunday of Pentecost (Whit Sunday) a Pontifical High Mass is celebrated, but the event that creates an unequalled expectaction is still to come. At night  all the brotherhoods gather together to pray the Rosary. As they begin to pray, one after the other the brotherhoods form a candlelight  procession past the Shrine, which lasts several hours. Everyone wait for the Simpecado from  the Oldest Brotherhood to go into the Shrine. At that moment ‘jumping the fence’  begins, where rocieros from Almonte jump over the railing protecting the virgin of El Rocío, and with much shouting and joyous emotion carry her shoulder high in procession surrounded by thousands of pilgrims. She is then paraded in front of the “Simpecados” before being returned to her shrine.

Rocio Huelva Festival
Around midnight the shrine is already crowded. The “almonteños” arrived some hours before to get into position close to the fence. They will still have to wait two or three hours more until they can take the virgin on their shoulders.

2nd part of El Rocío with videos, photos and much more.

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