Romería de Moguer
For months, my co-teacher had been excitedly telling me about her town’s beloved festival, the Romería de Montemayor in Moguer, Huelva, and I eagerly awaited another chance to don my traje de flamenca and experience an authentic small-town Andalucía celebration. And then I got a message from her son the day before attending telling me that the festivities had been postponed indefinitely. The Romería de Montemayor had caught on fire.
A few of the chozos (thatched huts that house the fabulous eating, drinking, dancing, and socializing of the Romería), including the one co-owned by my co-teacher’s family, had burned down due to an electrical fire. Joooder. Fortunately, a few hours later, I received word that a temporary solution had been made, and the Romería was still on!
So I trudged halfway across Sevilla in the 100° heat and my horribly thick traje de flamenca to meet my co-teacher’s son’s friend, who would take me to Moguer. Despite the unbearably hot beginning to the day and a few wrong turns, we finally arrived at the Romería de Montemayor.
Okay, rewind. What’s this Romería all about? As anyone who’s been to Spain probably knows, Spain freaking loves its parties and festivals. Every town, no matter how big or small, has at least one major celebration, usually involving traditional costumes, parties that last all night, and never-ending food and drink. Spain being the historically Catholic-crazed country it is, many of these festivals are dedicated to saints and virgins. The Romería de Montemayor is one of these, celebrating the Virgin Montemayor, located in a hermitage just outside the 20,000-inhabitant town of Moguer. Essential to any romería is the giant pilgrimage of devotees from all over the area, usually riding on horses or in old-fashioned wagons and carriages. What can I say, Spain is stuck way in the past, sometimes in the best possible way.
The Romería de Montemayor was much like the utterly magnificent Feria de Sevilla in that it was all about dancing sevillanas, dressing up in flamenco outfits, eating delicious tapas, and drinking rebujito, but think Feria: The Super Countrified Version. Replace circus-like casetas with beautiful chozos built with branches and eucalyptus leaves, all placed outside of town in the middle of forest and horse fields. In lieu of high-heeled espadrilles, women wear rustic riding boots. People ride around the fairgrounds on horse-drawn carts that seem to have just come from a long day of tending the crops. You feel like you’re hundreds of miles away from civilization, much less any fellow foreigners. It’s about as Andaluz as you can get.
Another magnificent difference between the Feria de Sevilla and the Romería de Montemayor? The food and drink is all paid for by the chozo owners, meaning it’s all free for guests! While Feria has a rather posh, elite system for getting admitted into casetas, the Romería de Montemayor makes everyone feel welcome. The entire town, most of whom know each other, come together in celebration, song, and dance. And though I was probably the only guiri there, they all seemed to welcome me with open arms, even christening me with my own Andaluz name, Margarita de los Trigales (Daisy of the Wheat Fields).
At midnight, they had a beautiful, somber, candle-lit procession:
I’d say that this, hands-down, was one of the neatest experiences I’ve had in all my time in Spain. I got a glimpse into authentic Andalucía, my co-teacher and her family showed me generous hospitality, and, just all around, I had an absolute blast.
I’ve shared a few photos on this post, but I’m pretty thrilled with how many of them turned out, and I think they give a better feel for the environment, so feel free to have a look at the rest of my album on Facebook!