18 May

If there are two typically Spanish things, it’s futbol and fiesta.

If you’re lucky, they both happen the same day. May 18th, if you’re a Sevillano, may very well have been one of the best days of your life. Here’s a play-by-play of last Wednesday:
7:15 – Wake up to shouts of, “QUE VIVA LA BLANCA PALOMA!” Or, long live the white dove! and the subsequent release of cannons. The mass of the Virgen del Rocio, or Virgen of the Dew, starts promptly at that hour. I was at Kike’s house, so I covered the pillow with my head and tried to sleep it off.
The pilgrimage to El Rocio, a beautiful and famous hermitage in the middle of Southern Spain’s famous national park, happens every Wednesday before pentecost in both Triana and Olivares. Around here, most girls are named for the famous virgins, and I have no shortage of friends and students named after the white dove, Rocio. Faithful followers rent of by big trailers, spruce them up with pictures of the Virgin and brightly-colored flowers, and make a long trek on foot towards the hermitage, a journey of 67 kilometres. People come in droves to see the simpecado, a gold-laden statue of the Virgin, passed around on Pentecost Sunday.
8:00 – Grabbing Juan Bosco, I set off for the long way home. Instead of cutting through the center and through Triana, I was relegated to practically the highway because the entire Police force of Seville was directing traffic. The carretas, the trailers which carry the pilgrims, had completely clogged San Jacinto. I quickly got dressed amidst cracks of whips sticks and more cannon booming.

8:50 – From my table besides the window in La Sonata, I ate my tostada and had my coffee listening to tambourines tingle. Women in short flamenco dresses with stiff leather boots and men sporting straw hats emblazoned with their hermandad stood around smoking, greeting friends and making sure they had everything together. Many wore green and white (the colors of Triana) braided necklaces bearing a round, silver image of the virgin. Triana and Olivares joined about ten other hermandades that day in camino to the Aldea de El Rocio, as the small municipality is called, and it is among one of the most famous. Sevillanas played and the hermanos filled the streets. I walked to the bus stop and watched carretas join a long line, all numbered, waiting for the official salida at 11am. Sadly, the simpecado, which is often pulled by bulls, had not left.

Most people make the trip to El Rocio on foot, choosing to sleep in the fields at night and leave the trailers for storing food and drink and taking refuge during inclement weather. Rocieras, another version of Sevillanas, keep the troops motivated, and some go on horseback or carry the carretas with tractors.

9:50 – The bus driver pulled into the first stop in Olivares and said, this is as far as we can go. I was easily a 15-minute walk from school, with heels and with treats for my students, so I trucked along the town’s main street until I ran into the trailers. Olivares’s hermandad is also well-known, but the carretas are simple, pulled by tractors and briming with smartly-dressed Olivarenas who waved to the people gathered on street corners and on balconies as if it were their maiden voyage. Since school had been cancelled for the first two hours, I met a few of my compis in front of the hermandad’s church, Nuestra Senora de las Nieves, and watched the remainder of the parade go by.

A carreta leaves Olivares, in front of the hermandad rociera’s chapel

10:30 – Two of my students, Rocio and her cousin Carmela, were missing from my first class, and even though I had a few days left, they had already said goodbye to me. The rest of the school day was fairly normal: classes, private lessons, and by the time I left Jaime and Maria’s, I was exhausted and feeling stressed.

10 pm – I arrived to Kike’s house exasperated and with three boxes of brownies still to make. I was greeted in the plaza with shouts of ATLEEEEEEETI and VIVA ER BETI! Sevilla FC and Atletico Madrid were duking it out that night for the championship of the Copa del Rey. Kike watched while I poured over boxed brownies with scant cooking supplies. Sevilla won 2-0, and I could have cared less. The city of Sevilla, however, did care, and car honking, screaming and red and white fireworks continued until 3am.

Pff, I’d take siestas over virgins any day.

For a video of the salida of the Virgen from her temple, click here

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living among pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she wrangles babies at an English Language Academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

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