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Andalusians generally spend a lot of money on pilgrimages, to make their yearly visits to the Virgin much-talked-about. sin pecado rocio sevillaThe pilgrimage is not just a festive consequence of a Christian eagerness (mostly for the Virgin Mary), but there are many attractions even before the beginning of the pilgrimage. Dressing in the pilgrim (romero/romera) costume is a ritual that is fulfilled in all of its senses, physical, spiritual, folk.

Getting together again with the eternal friends from the fraternity, enjoying the preparations, decorating the Simpecado (standard carried on a wheeled altar), and preparing one's own wagon and turn it into a singing cloud, leaving the quarters triumphantly, like a troop ready to conquer, on horseback with or without one's partner, among applause (like the legions of Caesar), with the sound of drums and Sevillana songs... girls costums seville festival

In the mornings Seville has a special light decorated by the slow transit of wagons drawn by patient oxen that look like creatures from another civilization. And in the place of honor is the Simpecado, which is the center of worship until the brotherhood reaches the village of Almonte along the way with singing and dancing prayers, water and wine celebrating the time that is to come. In the village the queen is the image of the Virgin, found centuries ago by a hunter.

The morning the pilgrims leave they shine more than the sun; the bells pealing with joy encourage the spring adventure, and the rest is an exhibition of a traveling popular art, of invisible loving hands. The way to the village is something else, voices drop when the city is left way behind, the pilgrims' throats are sore and their feet feel heavy, they have to measure their strength. The third act is the leiv motiv: staying in the crowded village, the sacred place of the Blanca Paloma (= White Dove, the popular name of the Virgin in this village).

The return may look like a retiring army full of emotions, but this is not so, they still have strength to sing sadly about the end of the pilgrimage until the following year, so far away...devotion virgin mary rociodevotion blanca paloma rocio

Looking for a barber in Seville

Opera House Seville tourEvery Opera story has a crucial setting, without which there wouldn't be great scripts. It's not Vienna nor Paris, it is Seville. Some of the best works have Seville as setting for their plots even though their author never sat a foot in the city.

Nevertheless, the magic of that Seville which has been the most cosmopolitan in the world for 150 years, simply by hearsay, caught those writers who needed stories of passionate and impossible love unfolding in "exotic" places. Don Giovanni, Carmen, Fidelio, La Forza del Destino.. and the Barber of Seville, of course.

The author of the latter, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, was a French playwright who was parte of the court of king Carlos III between 1764 y 1765. He came on business and left also for economic reasons as his debts increased.

Two years in Spain were enough to become fascinated by it and unleashed his creativity inspired by the exemplary novel of Miguel de Cervantes “The Jealous Husband”, the same author of Don Quixote.

Beaumarchais wrote the Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro, although the stories did not reach fame until Gioacchino Rossini and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart adapted them to the opera, respectively (well, there is a third libretto entitled The Guilty Mother with music by Milhaud which did not reach such high popularity).

figaro barber shop seville

In the first, Fígaro, the protagonist, is a famous barber in Seville in the late eighteen century who befriends a young nobleman, Count of Almaviva.

The aristocrat, in love with Rosina, an orphan girl who had been kidnapped by her tutor in order to marry her and keep a valuable inheritance, asks for his friend's help to meet his beloved by fooling the tight surveillance of Don Bartolo, and free her.

In the second story, The Marriage of Figaro, the count and countess of Almaviva get married now,while Figaro helps them preparing for the wedding. However, this time the count betrays Figaro, by trying to seduce his betrothed Susanna, provoking Figaro who will seek revenge.

Although Beaumarchais was never in Seville, the presence of the ordinary people, their rumors and legends made the opera location seem real. A great example is Figaro's home. It was echoed up by those romantic nineteen-century travellers such as British writer Augustus Halle who, after a trip to Spain, wrote in his Wanderings in Spain (London, 1873): “Just behind the Alcazar is Santo Tomás square where Figaro the barber of Seville had his establishment... it's strange than no enterprising barber has now been installed there".

bodeguita casablanca sevilla tapasLogically, the urban landscape has now changed, but if we walk from the royal palace down to Santander street, almost at the junction with Constitution Avenue, we may stop, look at the building in front the old mint Casa de la Moneda, and replace it in our imagination with a whitewashed two storey house, maybe with arcades.

At the ground floor, Figaro would attend his customers and shaving them with unrivalled ability. Upstairs his home, where next to Count Almaviva, they both designed the strategy and tricks to free beautiful Rosina.

To experience the rest of the script firsthand, we should head to Santa Cruz and the Abbots neighborhood where narrow, labyrinthine alleys take us back centuries and where Figaro was up to his arrangements and gimmicks.

balcony rosina barber sevilleThen, we may decide to look for Don Bartolo the tutor's house, and the balcony where Rosina awaited, heard and yearned for her beloved Count of Almaviva disguised under the semblances of the poor student Lindoro.

I locate the famous house right where Camen Laffón does: calle Segovias street, where now is the Hotel Palacio Pinello, few steps from the corner with Argote de Molina street. Carmen Laffón is the stage designer of the beautiful, authentic, perfectly achieved Barber of Seville that we enjoyed last February 2016 at La Maestranza de Sevilla Opera house, during a charming Andalusia tour with Italian Tour Operator Alderan - Note in Viaggio, Rome.

hotel palacio-pinello-sevilleCome to Seville, indulge in its magic, walk its charming little squares and alleys full of legends and stories while crooning Rossini and Mozart. Or maybe Bizet, for two streets from you, prés de remparts de Séville / chez mon ami Lillas Pastia, Carmen might be dancing the Seguidille on the tables of her friend's tavern next to the city walls! Pin your ears back and you will hear also the knocks beating the rhythm on the wooden tables while dozens of Manzanilla glasses clink in the hands. Where if this? Look for an alley called Callejón del Agua.

From the goddess Astarte to the Virgen del Rocío


almonte rocio-salto-de-la-reja

Who did not listen to talk or who did not see pictures of the "salto de la reja" (jump of the fence) in the village of Rocío?

Who does not know that in this agricultural place of the province of Huelva, one celebrates the biggest pilgrimage that sometimes has collected to 500.000 people or more?

Today, I present to you the original academic work of a friend (Raquel Venegas, Seville), on the well-known rituals related to the pilgrimage of the Virgin of Rocío in Almonte, province of Huelva, Andalusia.

It is a very original and really interesting work that connects once again the cultural present of Andalusia and our Phoenician and Greek-Roman origins. Download here, thanks (in Spanish).



encapuchado penitente sevillaEaster 2016 in Seville welcomed the travelers with a festival of colors and perfumes in the streets of Seville. It catched the senses in a unique Baroque fashion. I'll try to explain why and how. Baroque isn't just an art style born in Italy that produced paintings and sculptures so expressive they look alive. Baroque is also a way of life and feeling that can be still experienced in southern Spain, especially in Seville during Easter, the Holy Week: Semana Santa. From April 13th to 20th, my city hosts the most spectacular, lively and colorful week of processions of the world, where the past of Seville comes back with its XVI and XVII Centuries of Gold. mantilla sevilla semana santaFrom Palm Sunday to Resurrection, the old city is crossed by seven or more processions a day, some last five hours and some last fifteen! Each procession consists of two long lines of penitents carrying tall candles and hiding their faces with pointed hoods, then the hornet’s band and a big mobile float with images of the Virgin Mary or a sculptural group involving Jesus Christ in one of the phases of his calvary. Those floats weigh thousands of kilos and are carried by the sack men called costaleros, because each one of them carries 40 kg on his neck using a sack, el costal, for protection. Each brotherhood or guild may take to the streets two or three pasos, the incredibly richly decorated floats full of silver, gold embroidery on velvet and flowers. The most ancient brotherhood is la Hermandad de los Negritos, founded in the 14th century by the black slaves of Seville. cristo semana santa sevillaHow do these pasos move? Slowly, sometimes swinging and making Virgin Mary's float graciously dance during the procession. When the costaleros do it especially well, thousands of peoples start to cry for joy. Suddenly, a shocking flamenco voice breaks the babbling of the people in the street and the procession stops. Somebody has decided to sing a saeta dedicated to Jesus or the Virgin and for a few minutes he or she pierces the heart of thousands, far beyond their beliefs. Floods of people move in waves from one street to another, chasing their favorite pasos, band and image. Bars and taverns are packed with people relishing traditional Easter pastries like torrijas (toasted slices of bread soaking in sugared milk, and flavoured with cinnamon, then bathed in egg and fried) or cod or lamb-based dishes. patrocinio cachorro triana costalerosIn the morning, visitors are allowed to enter the chapels and admire the images and artwork before they take to the streets. If the sky gets cloudy, noses point to the sky hoping not to savor the rain. Semana Santa, Sevillan style, may also be enjoyed in Ronda, Jerez, Sanlúcar, Utrera and many towns around; they all offer both their own little peculiarities and common features, such as people from the balconies throwing rose petals over the image of Virgin Mary, enormous floats entering narrow streets with only a few inches left at the sides for moving along the streets. The scents of Semana Santa are orange blossom that we call azahar, from the 40 thousand orange trees planted inside Seville, then incense, jasmine, torrijas and, of course, candle wax. All together, it is a baroque experience that lives through your senses, rather than your rationality.patrocinio cachorro triana nazarenos palio virgen semana santa sevilla