martes, 16 de julio de 2013


The Virgin of Carmen is the patron saint and protector of fishermen and sailors. Religious Virgins are hugely popular in Andalucia (Spain); they are normally handcrafted from wood and porcelain and spend 99.9 per cent of the year at the local church. Most are dusted down and placed on flower-decked thrones at Easter-time when they are lovingly and solemnly borne through the streets. The Virgen del Carmen, however, has her own special day.

On the evening of July 16, in the fishing villages and towns up and down the Coast, her much-loved effigy is not only paraded through the streets but also taken for a spin round the bay on a flower-adorned boat, accompanied by a flotilla of "jábegas" (fishing boats). Brass bands play, crowds cheer, rockets shoot off and fireworks fill the late dusk sky.

Celebrations vary slightly from town to town. In Málaga, for example, the procession takes place not only on July 16, but on the following Sunday. A recent Malagueñan tradition, started in 1981, shows the Virgen del Carmen embracing all lovers of the sea - including scuba divers. That year, the City scuba diving club placed an image of their patron at the bottom of the sea and since then divers have paid their underwater homage annually.

The festival is especially important in the fishing villages of neighbouring Rincon de la Victoria and La Cala, both of which have the Virgen del Carmen as their town patron.

To understand why the Virgen del Carmen should be held so dear to the inhabitants of towns such as Estepona, Velez Malaga, Torremolinos and Rincon de la Victoria, we need to go back to the Old Testament. Downshifting in his old age, the prophet Elias retreated to a cave in Mount Carmelo near Haife (Israel). Many centuries later, hermits following in Elijah's footsteps asked for the protection of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmelo - the Virgin of Carmen. Stella Maris, as she was also known, was soon adopted by mariners and fishermen everywhere as their patron.

Although long overtaken by tourism, many Costa towns still retain fishing communities and a strong attachment to "la Reina de los Mares" (the Queen of the Seas). It was once believed - perhaps in the days before water-purifying plants! - that the Virgin cleared up the waters with her presence and that only after July 16 would the sea be fit for swimming in.


Like many large cities, Málaga has absorbed what once were nearby villages. Therefore, some of Málaga’s seaside neighbourhoods continue to carry on the customs handed down to them by the fishermen and their families who established them.
This is the case of Pedregalejo (literally translates to “rocky beach far away), El Palo and La Cala. Every summer people in these Málaga neighbourhood are joined from residents of the rest of the city who want to get in on the festivities when the fishermen pay tribute to their patron saint the Virgen del Carmen.
The Virgen del Carmen celebrations take place on the beach and out into the water as they do in other towns and villages up and down the Coast. In Málaga it is also customary for people to buy flowers and toss them into the sea in remembrance of deceased friends and relatives. How this massive influx of cut flowers affects the local coast is a question we will leave to the marine scientists at Málaga’s Aula del Mar teaching and marine rescue centre.
Contact the Málaga tourist office for a current schedule of Virgen del Carmen events in the area.

Several villages thoughout the municipality of Vélez-Málaga celebrate the Virgen del Carmen, patron saint of fishermen day. On July 16th you will find processions over both land and out into the sea in Torre del Mar (in the Las Melosas neighbourhood), Caleta de Vélez, Benajarafe and Almayate.
If you miss the chance to see the image of the Virgen del Carmen in this area you’ll have a second chance on the 26th of July when Torre del Mar celebrates Santa Ana and Saint Joaquin day in a rather similar fashion with processions over land and sea. The day ends with spectacular fireworks.

Every year on July 16th Virgin del Carmen Day is celebrated in Nerja in honour of the town’s maritime tradition.
Whereas some towns hold a draw to choose the boat that will carry the image of the Virgen del Carmen out to sea, in Nerja the town actually has a special boat that has been designed just for Virgen del Carmen Day. The man who designed this boat was Jose Calvente, also known as Pepe el Califate.
The night before the Virgen del Carmen festival there is a floral offering and the next day all the activity begins, culminating in the procession that takes the Virgen out to sea.

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