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El Rocio

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Feel the true spirit of El Rocio.....
   The pilgrimage begins with a walk through the ancient footpaths that converge around the River Guadalquivir. From dawn to dusk, a cloak embroidered with the moon and stars covers the tiny village of El Rocio. Join the pilgrims, accompanied throughout the entire camino (journey) by the drumming, to the rhythm of the drums and the sound of the flutes.
In addition to the drumming, fireworks stud the sky, guiding and calling the stragglers and, behind them, the hermandades (brotherhoods) with their staffs and flags, in a cloud of fringes, polka dots and flowers.
   Feel the true spirit of El Rocio, the mixture of inseparable sensations: joy, songs and the fiesta atmosphere, offset by tears, sighs, silence, promises and the open expression of emotion,... Endless processions of canvas-covered coaches adorned with flowers await the pilgrims in the village of El Rocio. The greatest pilgrimage in Spain is a riot of colour and joy.
   The most typical way of doing the pilgrimage is on horseback, in one of the carretas (decorated wagons) or on foot, journeying through the marshlands and sleeping out in the open. On Sunday night no-one sleeps in anticipation of being able to enter the church and join in the procession of the Blanca Paloma (White Dove), by which the Virgin of El Rocio is known. The most exciting moment of all is the salto (leap), when the people of the nearby town of Almonte enter the shrine, leaping over the railings, and lead their Virgin in procession through the village.
   In the camps, when night falls, the pilgrims drink, sing and dance. The sound of flamenco guitars and tambourines, carried on the sandy wind, animate the night.
Candles, torches and flares illuminate the simpecados, a banner of the Virgin transported under an elaborately decorated canopy, one for each hermandad, while thousands of people sing the Mysteries in honour of Our Lady, reeling off the prayer like pearls of love.

The Journey

Making the Journey
   For pilgrims to El Rocio, 'Making the Journey' is more than just a turn of phrase. It is a way of experiencing the long trek to worship the Virgen del Rocio, a journey made step by step, on foot, in carts, on horseback, indeed on any type of vehicle. Hailing from Seville, Huelva, Cadiz, and all over Spain and the rest of the world, the pilgrims and worshippers gather in their numbers to make the journey an extraordinary, joyous celebration enlivened by dancing and singing, and no little devotion; an event full of passion and intensity.
   Although all roads lead to El Rocio at Whitsuntide, there are several routes to choose from:
   The Jerez and Sanlucar Route: crosses the Doñana Nature Reserve and runs from the mouth of the Guadalquivir River, at Bajo de Guia, all the way to the village. This is a beautiful route for nature lovers to enjoy. An added highlight is watching the simpecados (banners), carts and horsemen and women across the estuary in the boats ferry.
   The Moguer Route: taken by pilgrims from Huelva on their way to El Rocio.
   Los Llanos Route: the oldest of all the routes, it starts in Almonte.
   The Sevillano Route: runs through Gelo, Marlo, El Quema, Villamanrique de la Condesa, La Raya Real, Palacio and El Ajoli, at the entrance to the village. Landmarks that are imbued with tradition, evocations, memories, hopes and intensity.

Brotherhoods arriving to El Rocio

Useful Advices
   Here are some useful tips if you decide to make the journey to the village of El Rocio in Almonte.
   If you're driving to the village to watch 'el salto de la reja' (literally 'the leap over the railings') assuming you will be able get into the church, of course, or the procession of the Virgin through the village, be prepared for some long traffic jams. Be patient. Lots of other people have the same plans as you.
   If making your way by foot and without the support of motorised transport: Try to join up with one of the brotherhoods if making the journey on your own.Take a rucksack with you and pack sufficient water, a little food and not much else. Even the slightest weight will seem a burden on some sections of the route.
   Take light clothing and a jacket for the evenings and mornings. Footwear should be as comfortable as possible and fit snugly around your ankles to stop sand getting in.
   If you do go on foot, either alone or with a small group of companions, we recommend you take the bus to Villamanrique de la Condesa, and start from there. The route up to this point (from Seville), runs mostly along the road and is quite taxing for beginners and for those with no motorised support. That is not to say that the section after Villamanrique is easy.
   It is customary to wait for help from the many friendly people in the brotherhoods. But like everything in this life, whether you'll get a helping hand or not all depends on who you come across.
   Take a small handkerchief with you to cover your nose and mouth when reaching the Raya Real. The huge firebreak there becomes a dustbowl when vehicles pass through.
Respect the environment don't leave litter lying around. There is nothing worse than having to make your way through the rubbish others leave behind them.
   Singing and revelry are key features of the pilgrimage. Eat, drink and be merry. The party can go on till the wee small hours of the morning. Bear in mind, though, that you will have to get up early in the morning, and the journey can go on forever if you've got a hangover.
   You'll feel faint at times, particularly if you've walked all the way from Seville to Villamanrique. Have a rest, enjoy a drink before you leave the village, and just think about the rewards that await you.

The Leap Over the Railings

   Now you are ready to watch this (I hope you are, sometimes I'm not..., but that's the way we are...)

Events held during El Rocio
10am: Pilgrims' Mass at El Alto del Molinillo del Chaparral.
Thursday and Friday
11am: Mass at the church of the Virgen del Rocio.
9am: Mass at the church.
12am: By the main door of the church, the Hermandad Matriz de Almonte welcomes the associate brotherhoods, in strict order of seniority.
Midnight: Departure of the Santa Rosario Procession.
10am at El Real: Solemn Whitsun Mass, given by the Bishop of Huelva and concelebrated by the padres of the brotherhoods.
8pm: Mass of the Drummers, Cartwrights and Firework Men.
Midnight: Departure of Santo Rosario accompanied by all the associate brotherhoods with their banners and insignia, who then assemble in Plaza de Doñana. Upon its conclusion Salve Solemne is sung.
Procession of the Virgen del Rocio through the village.
When the Virgen enters, Salve Popular de Despedida is sung.

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