June 6th marks D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history, and I happened to catch a glimpse of this segment on the news. I had no idea an ordinary house on Long Island played such a substantial role for the Allies in WWII, and I'm fairly certain this epic tidbit of history wasn’t touched upon in any Social Studies class.
This weekend is also a very special one for the Spanish.
In a tiny village of Huelva, thousands of people gather to celebrate one of the most important festivals of the year. The Rocío pilgrimage, El Rocío, is a celebration that dates back to the mid-1600s, and pays homage to the Virgin Mary--Our Lady of the Dew--the patron saint of the town of Almonte.
Nestled in the countryside of Doñana National Park, pilgrims called rocieros come from all over Spain (and the world, really). In caravans of wagons, by horse or on foot, they gather at the shrine of La Blanca Paloma before Pentecost Sunday, some traveling for weeks with their brotherhoods to be together for this special weekend.
Airy, crisp percussion sounds from the cajón fill the streets of what seems like the set from an old Western flick, as celebrants dressed in traditional flamenco-wear sing cantos + coplas--intensely beautiful poetic songs--dancing and waiting in anticipation for the Almonteños to take the White Dove out of the shrine and parade her through the dusty streets of the village.
Many tourists think of Spain as a complilation of bullfights, siestas and random tomato fights, and most have no idea about the importance of this particular feast. Now, not to get all spiritual and sappy on you, friends, but I this is where I'm going: it’s important to immerse yourself into your destination’s little mundo, peer into its soul, the essence of what it’s all about.
Ask friends, locals, get on Google and get your education-on for your travels, do a little tourism for the soul. A town away or thousands of miles overseas, it’ll be so worth it. You'll get to learn about a place and its people + perhaps gain a little insight about yourself along the way.
Being mindful of el alma today, I’ll leave you ladies and gents with part of a quote by Thomas Merton:
Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth
plants something in his soul.
Enjoy the moment!
You can read more about La Romería de El Rocío here.