The banger waked us, resounding in the woods, lit as an instruction to all sleepy people to tack the horses, attach the yokes to the mules and continue on our journey. The walkers stretched out of siesta mode and the beautiful spotted hourglass girls, like symbols of the essence of femininity itself, disappeared into the undergrowth – (nature was calling them!)
Tired and hurting, we walked in silence for a while until, around the corner, as an unexpected surprise, a little girl stood offering all who passed her freshly cut pineapple, soaked in tinned peach juice, from the back of a van. I felt I’d reached paradise early!
Late afternoon as the sun went down we stopped in another clearing for a little more ritual in the wilderness. It was time for the baptism of all new peregrinos, young and old. Water was poured over the back of our necks, as we were welcomed again into the fold. Fathers wept to see their sons pass through this local right of passage and there was quietness all around. Horses snorted and neighed in the sunshine, and then, not far away, some breakouts of Sevillana dancing and singing could be heard, sometimes just one or two lines of a ballad, and a dance of just four steps – music came and went like a breeze – the end of Sevillanas is never marked with an applause, a quiet “Ole” is all that is heard.
What is it all about? This is not nostalgia for the past, it’s about today and the future for our children; human needs to set goals, reflect on what is good, and take time out from the commercial world, to stay soulful and at peace with the world.
As we approached the last stretch of the sandy way into the very sacred town of El Rocio, the words “Viva El Rocio”… were shouted in a throaty yelp “Long live this…long live that…” that moved us all to want strive to be better and yearn to do our best.
Religion or no religion, some traditions that are built on the history of religion serve their part in making a better society, of bringing people together, and giving group hope. Elation was felt by all, plus exhaustion. As the sky darkened, we walked on to look for our hotel at the Fonda del Rocio, where we sat down on our terrace, coated in white dust from top to toe, with our sore feet up on the hitching rail, cowboy style, and drank a deliciously cool San Miguel beer.