There is very little information about all this on the internet. There’s, in fact, barely any information at all. No matter in what language, even in Spanish. There are very few photos as well. From the one hand, this is a local event, and people only 100km away from it might not know much about it. From the other side, this is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, gathering up to 1 mln. people. There are not many tourists and “outsiders” among the participants in romeria. The main part of people here are the pilgrims themselves.
Romeria takes place in a small village called El Rocio (Huelva province, Spain), which is not a very populous place normally. Up until the mid-XIX century, the whole village had only a few houses, and the pilgrims camped in their wagons. Later, each of the brotherhoods built its own house with stables, few dozens of bedrooms (with bunk beds like in a dormitory), and a large hall for the big celebrations. There are some private houses too. Such a village house, very basic and Spartan, costs about 1-2 mln €. During the pilgrimage dates, the daily rent reaches about 10 thousand €, while a room in a local hotel costs about €500 instead of the usual €60. The streets in the village are unpaved, everything is adapted to the animal-powered transport and horse riding.
The main attraction of the area, and the site of the annual pilgrimage of billions of people is the El Rocio chapel, where the pilgrims go to pay tribute to the patron saint, Virgin del Rocio. The actual pilgrims come on horseback, staying overnight for 3-4 nights in their wagons on their way. For many people this is the most important annual event, while other people in Spain have never even heard of it. And neither, of course, people from the other countries did.
Romeria in El Rocio does not resemble a religious event at all. It’s a feria, a moveable feast, where life itself is celebrated, with people dancing, singing, drinking over the top, and loving each other (in all senses). Christian and pagan beliefs are joined together here seamlessly.
Below are my 20 photos from El Rocio, made during the two days of my visit. This is not a report or a story. I did not make an attempt to follow the sequence of the events, as it is not very interesting to me. I was trying to embrace the overall atmosphere, the mood of the people, and of course the color of the “cowboy”-ish romeria. These are my visual impressions on the life of the pilgrims in El Rocio.
My thanks to Karen Hovhannisian for translating this post in English.