Each year, on the second Sunday if October, the entire village of Valencina de la Concepcion in Andalusia, Spain gathers to celebrate a centuries-long tradition. This tradition - the romeria - is a pilgrimage carrying the Our Lady of the Stars (the town’s patron saint) to the Hacienda de Torrijos. The legend goes that in the year 1600 a hen pecked into a wall at the Hacienda and discovered an image of Christ. So, the Hacienda becomes a special place and the townspeople take their statue of the Virgin to the shrine for a few hours before returning her to the parish church.
As luck would have it (truly) our stay in Valencina overlaps with this big event. My first clue that something was going to happen came the second night of our stay, when we went out to dinner and saw people blocking off roads to hang streamers from the light posts. I did some research and learned more about the celebration. I found a blog written by a British expat who lives in town, and I asked our Airbnb host for details. We got enough information to decide to go to the church in the morning of the pilgrimage and watch the beginning of the celebration.
People dress up for this in traditional costumes and load up decorated carts for a day-long picnic at the Hacienda. There were women riding sidesaddle on horses, and oxen drawing the carts. There was a marching band and some fife-and-drum players.
It was all kind of moving to me. We chose not to go to the Hacienda, since we don’t speak Spanish and don’t know anyone here, but we did enjoy watching the procession around the town square. It was a great experience and I am so grateful for it!