Flamenco and Fervor: Inside Spain’s El Rocío Pilgrimage

In El Rocío, we found religious fervor in the streets, in the Churro shacks, in the hermandades themselves. But there was also fervor for fervor itself. I’m the Irish daughter of a Presbyterian pastor, raised on no-frills religious celebrations; tea and a scone is as decadent as Presbyterian celebrations get. In El Rocío, I found myself intoxicated by the pageantry and rituals, and by the idea that a pilgrimage can and should also be a source of revelry.

Friday night melted into Saturday morning, and Kevin and I found ourselves chatting with two young friends from Madrid — in their 30s, like us. Young people used to want to escape from religious traditions, they told us. But El Rocío offers them an escape, they said, from the stresses of modern life.

“I love El Rocío, because it’s the one time of the year that my whole family gets together — no excuses,” said Carmen Mora, 32, who works for a travel tech start-up. “It’s healthy to forget about city life for a week — my city clothes, the technology, my job, the pressure.”

“It’s good for the spirit to be immersed in tradition,” she added.

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