Spain's Costa del Sol Festivals and Celebrations
La Cala de Mijas Verbena y Romeria
Try to erase your mental picture of the touristy Costa del Sol with its sun, sea and sand. Imagine, instead, you are in the middle of a pilgrimage, following a statue of Santa Teresa, the Patron Saint of La Cala de Mijas. The statue is surrounded by flowers, on a plinth carried by twenty women, some in bare feet, who are dressed in vivid flamenco costumes. This is the start of the 'Verbena y Romeria' in La Cala de Mijas, on the Costa del Sol.
La Cala de Mijas
Twenty years ago La Cala de Mijas was a small village with lots of narrow streets filled with white washed buildings and lots of brightly coloured flowers, where only Spanish could be heard. Fishing and all things connected with the sea was its livelihood. It was untouched by tourism. Today as much spoken English is as commom as the Spanish accent but La Cala de Mijas has managed to keep its traditions despite losing its quaint, sleepy natural appeal.
La Cala de Mijas village can be found on the main coastal road, twenty-five minutes from Malaga Airport in the direction of Marbella and ten minutes from Fuengirola. Even though it has now lost its olde-worlde naturalness and is surrounded by villas and newly built apartments, some of them un-finished due to world recession, it distances itself from the commercialised hubs of the tourist industry. La Cala de Mijas still holds its charm.
The Verbena y Romeria
It is in La Cala de Mijas that one of the many Spanish Saints Days and religious processions takes place. The Verbena y Romeria is held each year around October 18th.
Mass is held in the local church at 11 a.m. before assembling of the procession begins, but the event is not just about a pilgrimage. The poster advertises the event as a 'Verbena y Romeria', which means, 'street party and pilgrimage'. It is a day out for the Spaniards and their families-an opportunity for the women to dress up in vividly coloured costumes, to meet their friends, to watch the horses parade and to picnic-all under the hot sun!
Visitors are welcome to join the Procession behind the floats carrying women in their flamenco costumes with their tightly fitting bodices opening out into a multitude of frilled skirts with side slits.You may see a multitude of colours, reds, greens, oranges, lime green, and all manner of flowery patterns, swirls and spots. Large hooped earrings dangle almost down to their shoulders and long hair is scraped back from the face. Wherever you look your eyes feast on the vibrant colours.
When the procession halts to give the statue bearers a rest, some of the women with men in traditional costume wearing red shirts and sombreros, dance in swirls and turns on the spot to the flamenco music blaring out from the float.
This float is followed by horse-drawn carriages, polished and as shiny as the well-turned out horses. The Spaniards are proud of their horses and their horsemanship. Sometimes, the Shetland ponies may pull small children along in miniature carriages. But mainly, the majority of the horses will be waiting at the park for the main procession to arrive.
At the entrance to the park, the destination, the drumming band stops playing and everyone disperses to meet up with friends and family. They kiss on both cheeks in welcome and move off to find a picnic area.
Spaniards rise early to cook dishes to give to the communal table. Everyone is invited to take food and drink to share and, in return, receive whatever the table has to offer. It is customary to visit other tables and say, 'Hola', receive their hospitality and invite them back to your table.
One group is cooking the biggest paella dish ever seen. A huge piece of wood is used to stir the contents which will cater for one hundred people! The dish will take a long time to cook but the Spaniards are not in a hurry, especially on a Sunday, a day for all the family to share on this special 'Romeria' day.
Young children run around; they play football, persuading their parents to buy them a balloon of a life-size dog, or they blow bubbles across the park. The young girls are dressed up in their finery, too, just like a miniature version of their mothers, some even in matching costumes. What a fun day for all ages!
If you wander across the road you will see a number of stalls selling gifts or toys. Assembled in the shade the horses have gathered. These are well-groomed horses, looking so fit and proud, just like some of their riders, predominantly men, apart from a few immaculately turned out female riders. Some of the male riders wear boaters with a black band trim or black sombreros whilst others are in black waistcoats, white shirts and chaps.
Anything is acceptable on this day of celebration. The Spaniards make a huge effort to make this event a success and welcome the foreign tourists to join in their festivities. It is a great opportunity for foreign visitors to immerse themselves deeper into Spain's real culture instead of the usual tourist attractions you would find in any brochure. There is a sense of camaraderie and fun whatever the age or nationality.
More Fiestas, Celebrations and Events
Once you have experienced the profusion of colour, the friendship and generosity of the Spaniards and a bit of unknown Spain you will want to know when the next celebration will take place. There are lots of them throughout the year so you won't have to wait very long. More details can be found in 'Festivals, Processions and Celebrations on the Costa del Sol, Spain.