Feast of the Virgen de la Peña

Hundreds of hands hoisted the heavy altar from where the Virgin reigned over the crowd, serenaded by a chorus of hundreds of “Vivas!” It was a special occasion: Just as she had every year for more years than anyone present could count, the Virgin left her church for a stately procession that would take her to the summit of the Peña (“rock”), from where she blessed the town below. It’s part of the celebrations of the Feast of Puebla de Guzmán (about 38 miles from Huelva, Spain), which fill the streets with music, flamenco guitars, and tradition. With sword dances, drummers, and everyone dressed like flamenco dancers and gypsies, it’s an explosion of color against the whitewashed walls of Puebla, a sincere expression of joy of the people of this southwesternmost corner of the Iberian peninsula.

During these happy days, everything happens on horseback. Riding through town on countless steeds, everyone stops at bars and streetside stands to soothe parched throats with a cool rebujito cocktail that washes away inhibitions and brings out more than a few merry (if occasionally offkey) ditties along the way. It’s one big party, organized by the Mayordomos, where roses, cakes and dulce de cidra (a delicious dessert made from a type of squash) are handed out all around town. Even those of us who didn’t grow up with these centuries-old traditions fall prey to their power, dragged by the raw emotion of the moment to live and experience it with the residents of this ancient town.

Foto | Ignacio Izquierdo