Each May, the rich greens and browns of the countryside of northern Spain are brightened by a rainbow of colorfully dressed townsfolk keeping alive the pageantry of an age-old pilgrimage transplanted here from the country’s south.
Hundreds of Spaniards slowly make their way on foot, horseback or on carriages drawn by mules or tractors through the fields around the agricultural town of Fitero near Pamplona, the city famous for its running of the bulls fiesta.
Wearing flowers in their hair and brightly colored dresses, the women are joined by men in suits and hats. They stroll in a long line along narrow dirt roads through lush fields accompanying a mule-drawn cart that bears a small wooden statue of the Virgin and Child. They occasionally stop to dance to add to the festive atmosphere.
They all are devotees of the virgin Rocío. The pilgrimage “Romería de el Rocío” is from Spain’s south, where it is still extremely popular. It was brought to the country’s north by migrants from southern Andalusía, who came here and to other parts of Spain in large numbers in the middle of the last century in search of work and better opportunities.
Now the devotees in the yearly procession are a mix of people whose families hail from the south and those who have adopted the pilgrimage as their own.
The pilgrims’ route takes around three hours to complete. Once back in Fitero, the devotees attend Mass and pray for loved ones.