The Romería de San Isidro must rank as one of the best celebrations on the calendar….
along with almost all the other fiestas, of course. We love a good party. It’s tradition, it’s colourful, it’s relaxed and the overall atmosphere is just amazing.
San Isidro (Saint Isidore) is the patron saint of farmers and his statue resides at the Nerja Caves. However, for San Isidro celebrations, the statue is brought to the town just before the event and then makes its ceremonial journey back to its home in the company of thousands of ‘pilgrims’.
Good weather can be virtually guaranteed for San Isidro, in the same way as rain can be almost guaranteed during the October Feria (or Wimbledon), and this year was no exception. It was actually a fair bit cooler this time than in recent years, although still very warm, and made walking the long route with the procession much easier.
The partying actually begins the night before, May 14th, up at the Nerja Caves and continues until the next morning. The procession, or romería, starts at around midday on May 15th and takes up to four or five hours before all the stragglers eventually arrive at the caves area.
Leading the procession this year were the horsemen (and women), the majority decked out in all their traditional finery. Just about everyone who has a horse (or a mule) – and that is a large number of people in Spain – joins the parade.
The local (commercial) riding stables were all well represented, as usual (Nerja Riding Centre, Cortijo Hidalgo and Los Tejanos), as well as the private (Spanish) stables of such well known local individuals as Antonio Roca and Francy and even some from farther afield, Tony from Los Olivillos in Competa bringing down a whole bunch of riders.
Participating in the San Isidro procession on horseback is not restricted to local residents and, as normal, there were a fair number of tourists/visitors taking part.
The commercial riding centres offer mounts for the day at reasonable prices (contact details here) but do bear in mind that such events get booked up fairly early, some people even reserving almost a year in advance, so if you are planning a holiday during San Isidro and want to ride then book early! The earlier the better.
It is an experience well worth the effort and gives you a totally different perspective of things.
And a tip for the ladies. If you are planning to wear a flamenco dress whilst riding and choose to ride in an English saddle, bear in mind that the leather can get exceeding, scorchingly hot during the time you are dismounted. There have been many notable instances of a severely burned glutimus maximus.
Next up were the pairs of oxen, magnificent beasts, pulling gaily adorned carts and including the one carrying the statue of Saint Isidore. A couple of years ago, an outbreak of Blue Tongue disease prevented the oxen from taking part and it has to be said that their presence was definitely missed. They really are majestic creatures. Slow, ponderous, powerful and absolutely fascinating.
And I did learn something new this year. When you go to touch or stroke the head of a horse they (generally) seem to view this as an affectionate and acceptable action. When you go to stroke the head of an ox, it shakes its head vigorously as if trying to ward off an approaching fly. They all do it apparently.
Then there were the carriages, all shapes and sizes. The local carriage boys were all there, as well as those lucky enough to own their own horse-drawn limousines. There was a cute little Shetland pulling a small cart, although it was obvious that he was in charge of where the contraption went, and at what speed, rather than it having anything to do with the driver!
The motorised brigade, quite numerous this year, brought up the rear of the procession. It is hardly surprising that the procession takes so long to make its journey and gets strung out for miles when you consider that they tend to put the cheetahs at the front and the snails at the back. Add to this the fact that they try to keep normal traffic flowing by constantly holding up sections of the procession….
Once up at the caves it’s a question of eat, drink and be merry. There’s music, dancing and all sorts going on. And for those who want to indulge themselves, there is a continuous bus service to and from the caves so there is no excuse for drinking and driving.
And the video!