Anything But Paella

La Virgen de Rosario

October 7 sees many towns and villages across Spain celebrate the Virgen de Rosario, or Our Lady of the Rosary as the English translation goes. The celebration dates back to 1571 when the Christian fleet defeated their Ottoman adversaries off the coast of western Greece. Back then the festival was known as Our Lady of Victory but in 1573 Pope Gregory XIII decided to change the name.

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I joined the crowds outside the Parroquia de San Jaime church in Guardamar del Segura to see how the town celebrated the occasion. As is common with such events there was a lot of waiting around but the crowd grew expectant as the Virgin was escorted out of the church by a cavalcade of civic and military dignitaries, local beauty queens known as damas, and the faithful congregation. They carried the image of the Virgin around the streets on their shoulders stopping from time to time to lighten the load. A smaller float was carried in front by a group of teenagers, unable yet to bear the burden of the main carriage. As usual they were guided around by the wonderful musicians of the Agrupación Musical de Guardamar who never fail to impress.

An hour or so later they all returned safely to the church. A majestic display of fireworks over the town hall followed. Everyone left feeling very moved by the whole experience.

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But what if it goes wrong? Spare a thought for the town of Santomera, located somewhere between Orihuela and Murcia. They had a terrible night with the Virgin falling from her float and losing her head in the process. One wonders how many years of bad luck follows an accident like that! The disaster was caught on film, and you can watch the video on La Verdad’s website. There’s no commentary, just gasps of shock as the Virgin toppled over, so you don’t need to speak Spanish to take a look.

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