Romerias are pilgrimages where the Virgin from the local village church is taken out and processed to usually a shrine in the country. They are great colourful days out that happen once a year for each village and are very special. people plan their annual holidays around them. Dancing, picnics, singing and a few solemn moments.
All the horses were tied in the yard, washed and brushed until they shone in the low, late evening light. We prepared six of them and little Romerita, Daisy’s pure white pony, and we tied them all in the yard over night to stop them rolling. Excitement ran through the whole farm– tomorrow was a different kind of day.
We had to be in the village plaza by eight o’clock the next morning, all of us dressed, mounted and with the picnic ready. There were eight of us, all friends, an international party!! Isabel from Germany, Nicole from Holland, the three of us, Carlos and Marta from Madrid and Teresa from Seville.
The alarm woke us at six and first a coffee still feeling a little the worse for wear from a late dinner the night before. Some of us go out into the warm dark morning to begin to prepare the horses. First to feed them all, much earlier than usual. They eat but fidget and stamp their feet and gentle snorts betray their nerves. The tack is clean, soft and slightly greasy to the touch. Special and decorative. Tails are plaited and tied up, hooves polished and oiled. Across the yard, from the kitchen, comes the smells of breakfast, frying bacon and more coffee and the picnic is packed away ready to be stowed in the saddlebags that we all carry. Everybody works quietly not wishing to wake the day. Finally the girls begin to dress. A cloud of flounces and flamenco dresses, flowers for the hair, grips and clips, buttons and zips… like butterflies they emerge into the morning. The horses, startled by the shapes and colours as they begin to mount have to be calmed by the voices that they know. Still half dark, the moon shining through the cork trees we leave riding quietly, glad to have got away in time, trying to remember if we have got everything. As we reach the top of the hill there, in the distance, is the village on the hillside opposite. The church illuminated as if still the middle of the night. But already we hear the sounds as they carry across the valley in the early morning of tractors starting, fireworks exploding and the excited shouts of fellow “romeros”.
We ride, single file, in cool evergreen air, still untouched by the sun. through the abandoned farms of early morning. Nearing the village, the track becomes cobbled and we wake from our solitary monochrome reveries.
The village is dressed in red and white – its colours. Shouted greetings, frying churros, coffee, copas, cachondeo. Horses and horsemen, the ox-cart carrying the Virgen dressed in white lilies stands under the lime tree in the middle of the square while mass is said around her. The lawyer, the farrier, the surgeon, the builder, we all stand wearing our medallions of the Hermandad. United in formality and expectation.
We mount our horses and stand in a loose half circle, perhaps fifty of us. The horses fidget and chew their bits and the tractors fire up. More and more people enter the square, it fills with the sounds greetings, exclamations and urgent last minute arrangements.
Rockets herald the entrance of Castaño, our neighbouring village that joins us for the pilgrimage. First their horsemen, some fine horses and men dressed in traje corto. Then those that mount their mule, both more accustomed to the plough than the procession, oxcarts and their Virgen dressed with the branches of the sweet chestnut tree. Slowly with ancient ritual they circle the plaza. Men remove their sombreros and tip their heads in recognition as She passes. She is applauded by the sharp clatter of shod hoof on the cobbled square.
Time to leave. Again with venerable tradition, horsemen first, then the oxcart of the Virgen, then mules and donkeys, pilgrims on foot and finally the tractors and the trailers decorated with the red and white paper flowers of the village. We wind our way out up the hill past the school and the post office and from every doorway comes encouragement.
A favourite drink at the Romeria village picnics is called rebujito REBUJITO or Vicar’s Ruin
- 1 part Manzanilla sherry
- 3 parts 7up (yes that’s right seven up!! nothing else will do )
- Plenty of ice and a handful of mint.
- Serve very cold.
Wonderfully refreshing with just enough of a lift.