"when at the dawn of morning, wild ducks flew..."
After the conquest of Seville in 1248 by the Christian kingdoms, King Alfonso X the Wise converted Doñana into a royal hunting ground. However, it was not until the fifteenth century when the manorial rule began and with it the first limits and boundaries, and the prohibition of any use that would harm hunting.
The name of these lands is found in documents of the house of Medina Sidonia, which describes how in 1523The VI Duke of Medina Sidonia rented Las dehesas del Carrizal and La Ahulaga to Sancho Herrera, warden of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and his wife, Doña Ana Mallarte, who built a herd or dwelling, known as Hato de Doña Ana. Half a century later the VII Duke of Medina-Sidonia built a palace for his wife, Doña Ana Gómez de Mendoza y Silva For many years, this aristocrat was considered to be the one who gave her name to this territory.
A late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries the beacon towers were built during the reign of Philip II, which served as protection against attacks by Barbary pirates.
After this first period dedicated almost exclusively to predation and to obtaining hunting resources, a second stage begins (towards XVIII century), in which three uses are consolidated: the exploitation of the forest, the maintenance of the pastures and meadows for livestock, and the promotion of the preserve as a hunting ground, for which the old palace was refurbished.
In the 19th century, this area took on a new value with the publication of the Catalogue of the birds observed in some provinces of Andalusia by Antonio Machado Núñez. Doñana awakens the interest of national and foreign naturalists and hunters, which is seriously endangering the populations of some species. danger the populations of some species.
Later, in the twentieth century Doñana passed into the hands of the bourgeoisie of Cádiz, with the sale by the House of Medina Sidonia to Mr. Guillermo Garvey, vintner of Jerez, in 1900. The new owners of Doñana introduce animal species, plant stone pines and organize regular hunting. In 1912 the estate was inherited by María de los Ángeles Medina y Garvey, married to the Duke of Tarifa, a forestry engineer, who continued the work of conditioning the estate. A few years later, in 1940, the Sociedad Cinegetica del Coto del Palacio de Doñana was established.
Its immense wealth of fauna also attracted ornithologists from all over the world, who proposed in 1952 the internationalization of its property. It is the beginning of a conservationist awareness inside and outside our borders, which culminated in 1963 with the acquisition of some 7,000 hectares by the Spanish State, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature Conservation (WWF), for the creation of the Doñana Biological Reserve. Six years later, the Doñana National Park was created, which was expanded and reclassified by the Legal Regime Law in 1978 and subsequently extended its boundaries in 2004. Since then, several international protection figures have converged in this territory.
The relationship of this privileged space, Natural Sanctuary, with El Rocío is a demonstration of the ancestral links of man with the natural space that inhabits and surrounds it, and that has witnessed the devotion of the Rocío for more than seven centuries, forming a fundamental part of the identity of these peoples of lower Andalusia. The brotherhoods of El Rocío are fully aware of this, and have been working for years to minimize their impact on these spaces. A proof of this awareness is the Extraordinary Assembly held by the Governing Board of the Hermandad Matriz at the Marismillas Palace at January 2012The company made a statement in this regard, repeated at the same location in December 2019on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Doñana National Park. This is the site of the last Preparatory Assembly of the Caminos de Cádiz for the Pilgrimage of 2022, last March of this year.
This derives from the special sensitivity of the rocieros towards this space that has grown uninterruptedly in recent decades, and from the ethical and moral obligations that we have been reminded of through the encyclical LAUDATO SI the Pope Francis promulgated on May 24, 2015, following the postulates of the Saint of Assisi, inspirer of his pontificate. In this sense we are committed to continue strengthening the awareness of all the rocieros in the conservation of Doñana and the environment, because as Pope Francis says: “If man feels intimately united to everything that exists, sobriety and care will spontaneously sprout.” And a close example that the rocieros had and have in the teachings of the famous pedagogue from Huelva, Manuel Siurot Rodríguez.