"To El Rocío I want to return..."
Long before the Virgen de las Rocinas adopted the tradition of procession around the hermitage as the culmination of her pilgrimage, she began to be brought to the town of Almonte. For this reason, it has been shaped over the centuries as an eminently pilgrim image, always on the road.
We are referring to some mobilizations, in which the image was brought in procession on the shoulders of the devotees, through the countryside for a distance of about 15 kilometers, which required the deployment of a significant effort of men who, in the early years, entertained with food paid for with money from the municipal coffers.
Despite the long distance between the hermitage and the village, there have been specific stages in which the comings and goings of the Virgin have been repeated in a really continuous way, so that those ancient Transfers emerge from a very important symbolic background. First, the constant effort that the neighborhood of Almonte showed to clearly identify the belonging and possession of the image, over the occasional settlers established in the Rocinas and its wide surroundings. Secondly, the confirmation that the local powers, Church and City Hall, governed the designs of the image in the assignment of dates of the Transfers, above any religious order or chaplains in charge of attending to the worship of the hermitage. This was a very subtle formula to control and regulate the rise and fall of the prices of the most basic food products by the municipal authorities.
It should be noted that in the contextual framework of this type of transfers to the town of Almonte arose the two most important institutional proclamations of its particular history, because without the presence of the devout image would not have occurred. We refer to her appointment as Patroness of Almonte in 1653, and the formalization of the Vow of Promise to hold an annual religious function in commemoration of the miracle worked in August 1810, to save the neighborhood from being massacred by the French army occupying the town, popularly known as “Rocío Chico”, carried out in August 1813.
The reasons for these transfers were initially due to public calamity. It is even the case that in 1738 it was brought in three times and that on other occasions it had not been brought in for very long periods of up to fifteen or twenty years. There were also prolonged stays of the Virgin, such as the one that took place after the Lisbon Earthquake (1755-1760), while the old hermitage was being built, or during the War of Independence (1810-1813).
Since 1949, on the occasion of the blessing of the parish of Almonte, after the reconstruction works carried out after its destruction in the Civil War, The Virgin has come to the town of Almonte every seven, being in 1956 when it is invoked for the first time the time elapsed, and coming in 1963, on the occasion of the demolition of the old chapel. Since 1971 the rite has been invariably fulfilled In 1971, it was considered a prudential period of time for the people of Almonte to enjoy the presence of their Mother and Patron Saint in the town.
Covered with a duster, the Virgin of El Rocío is carried on the night of August 19 to 20, along the Camino de los Llanos, on the shoulders of the people of Almonte, to her village. Photograph by Antonio Ramos, 2019.
In this way, the Virgen del Rocío is brought on August 19, every seven years, after the Rocío Chico, to be transferred back to the village, before the Pilgrimage, remaining in Almonte for a period of nine months.
The distance separating Almonte from the village of El Rocío is approximately 15 kilometers. The roads of Los Llanos and Los Taranjales are those that have historically run the transfers of the Virgin, on the shoulders of the people of Almonte.
At sunset, at the exit of El Rocío, the Virgin is covered with a cloak that protects her from the dust of the road.At dawn, with the first ray of sunlight, he takes off his duster and his handkerchief, at the Alto del Molinillo, in El Chaparral, in Almonte.
A procession will then start through the streets of the village, decorated with arches and flowers, to the Parish of Ntra. Mrs. of the Assumption. Worship services will not cease during these months. There will take place the pilgrimages of the filial brotherhoods and the recitation of the Salve, every night, to culminate with a novena preparatory to Pentecost and the farewell procession through the streets of the center of the town, dressed as Queen. A week later, he will return to his shrine.
The last extraordinary stay of the Virgin in Almonte has taken place during the Coronavirus pandemic . The health situation surprised the world during the ordinary transfer of the Virgin, which took place in 2019, not being able to return in the spring of 2020. For two years the Pilgrimage had to be suspended in the village and it has not been until May 2022, when the Virgin will return to El Rocío.