This weekend I witnessed an interesting celebration. Sunday July 16 is the feast day of the Virgin del Carmen, the protector of the sea and patroness of the Carmelite religious order. In Valladolid there’s a tradition to have a flotilla down the Pisuerga River.
As a protestant I ordinarily don’t pay much attention to the religious feast days (except when they result in store closings) but this time there were posters up in the neighborhood. It turned out to be a pleasant day so I grabbed my camera and headed down to the park by the river.
I could hear voices lifted in song and followed them until I came across the rowboat where the Virgin del Carmen patiently waited for the Mass to end and her cruise to start. Already people were lining up on the banks of the river and across the closest bridges.
After Mass the local folk dance troupe entertained people while flowers were transferred to the Virgin’s boat. The lady above holds the seal of the city while the one below is using castanets while she dances. This dance form is called jotas and it’s really popular. Most towns have their own troupe. The dancers wear traditional garb, the colors and patterns vary based on the region.
The people patiently waited for the procession to begin. The majority talking to one another and pointing out the kayaks and other small boats as they lined up to join the procesión fluvial.
There were a few ducks checking things out as well although they were less impressed.
Eventually the Virgin was rowed out onto the river with a bit of ceremony that involved cannons, chanting and flower petals. As she passed under the bridge closest to me you could hear the cheers.
Down the river they went with people along the banks of the river or waiting on the bridges for the rowboat to pass. Some people followed the procession on foot. I walk that path all the time. You can walk for a couple miles on one side of the river, thanks to the same group of folks who also sponsored the procesión fluvial. I passed on the opportunity, but was glad I took the time to witness the event and gain a little more insight into the culture of my adopted country.