Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Pilgrims gather in faith and friendship

Heathcote took on a Spanish flavour during the third El Rocio pilgrimage on the weekend.

BARBARA SUNGAILA March 19, 2014 4:10am

Pilgrims paraded down High St on Friday to start the Heathcote El Rocio festival. Photo: Barbara Sungaila



Spain came to Heathcote over the weekend when visitors flocked to the third El Rocio pilgrimage.

The footpath outside the RSL was a swirl of colour on Friday morning and the sound of castanets and flamenco music filled the air.

Maria Gormez, originally from La Mancha, said the festival was about community and religion.

‘‘We get together and share our food, religion and laughs,’’ she said.

Virginia Alcazar, originally from Madrid, said she had been to all three El Rocio festivals in Heathcote.

‘‘A lot of us only see each other here. We have busy lives,’’ she said.

Celebrations started with a flamenco mass, and then a walk with pilgrims following the Virgin del Rocio in her highly-decorated cart.

Tiffany Ayres led the procession on her Andalusian horse Romanzo, from Yalkin Stud in South Australia.

The McIvor Creek stood in for the Rio Quemathe Andalusian river where new pilgrims are blessed and welcomed into the Rocio family.

El Rocio began in 1653 when the Virgin of Las Rocinas was appointed Patron Saint of Almonte in Andalusia, Spain.

In Andalusia pilgrims travel in groups for between one and seven days, generally sleeping outdoors before taking part in a number of religious ceremonies.

The original Spanish festival has attracted more than one million pilgrims in recent years but the Australian event is on a far more modest scale.

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