Over the past couple of days, various festivities in honour of the Virgen del Carmen, the patron saint of fishermen and sailors, have been in full swing.
Around 16th July each year, many of the coastal towns and fishing villages of Spain celebrate by parading the statue of Virgin del Carmen through the streets, accompanied by the steady rhythm of a brass band, the resounding thump of a drumbeat and the cries from the crowd of “guappa” or “viva” as the statue passes by.
At dusk, after the procession arrives at the water’s edge, the Virgin del Carmen is taken out to sea on a flower-decked boat, accompanied by a flotilla of fishing boats (jábegas),to bless their fishing grounds.
The Virgen del Carmen is of great importance to the inhabitants of Axarquían towns and villages such as Caleta de Vélez, Nerja, Rincón de la Victoría and Torre del Mar because many larger towns and holiday resorts along the coast were once small fishing villages where the sea provided their daily existence.
But we need to look back to the scriptures of the Old Testament, centuries before the birth of Christ, for the origin of the Virgen del Carmen.
The Bible tells us that the prophet Elijah went up Mount Carmelo near Haife, in Israel to pray for rain to relieve a great drought that had parched the lands. Whilst Elijah was on Mount Carmelo, he saw white clouds forming, which would bring the much needed rain. Elijah interpreted the clouds as a sign of the coming of a Saviour who would be born of a Virgin.
In gratitude for the rain, the community dedicated itself to praying for the mother of the Saviour to come, and the Order of the Carmelites was formed.
On 16th July 1251, the Virgen del Carmen is said to have appeared to Englishman, Simon Stock, who was responsible for building Carmelite monasteries throughout Europe in the 13th century. The story goes that when she appeared to him, the Virgen was holding a scapular and she promised that Carmelites who show their devotion should use this as a sign of privilege that they would be “granted the grace of final perseverance and be delivered from eternal Purgatory”.
A scapular was originally an apron, forming part of the dress of a religious order, but for the lay-faithful, scapulars usually bear images, or verses from scripture. Devotional scapulars typically consist of two rectangular pieces of cloth, wool or other fabric that are connected by bands. One rectangle hangs over the chest of the wearer, while the other rests on the back, with the bands running over the shoulders.
The Virgin Mary of Mount Carmelo (the Virgin of Carmen or Virgen del Carmen) is also known as Stella Maris (Latin for Star of the Sea) which is the name given to the Pole Star (Polaris) used by mariners for centuries as celestial navigation.
EDITED TO ADD: These photos were all taken during the evening of 16th July 2014 in Torre del Mar. I had to wade out into the sea, above my knees, to take them because there were so many people on the beach, it was the only way of getting the chance of some good shots without thousands of heads or bodies in the way. My sundress was soaked and I had to try to hold it up with one hand and take photos with my other. Happy days :)
Which is your favourite Spanish festival?
Those of you who follow my Facebook page will already know about the devastating wildfire which spread throughout the Cómpeta countryside last Sunday.
At the height of the blaze there were more than 200 fire-fighters on the ground, assisted by up to 19 fire-fighting aircraft, including helicopters, water-carrying planes, and spotter aircraft. Personnel were drafted in from the whole of Málaga province and beyond, to the blaze which started around 1pm, but quickly spread over an area of 100 hectares (250 acres) into the Sierras de Tejeda, Alhama and Almijara Natural Park.
Five houses were damaged and the local football pitch destroyed during the day, as well as 500 people being required to evacuate their homes overnight.
Fortunately there were no injuries reported.
Rumours are rife that the fire was started either maliciously or as a result of “bad agricultural practices”, but whatever the truth, it was a frightening experience for many local residents and visitors, alike.
Below is a collage of some of the photographs I took throughout the day.
If you live in a forest in Spain or within 500 metres of one, you are required by law to have a fire prevention and self protection plan in place, just in case a fire should occur.
It’s a sad fact of life, that only around one quarter of all forest fires are started by natural causes, such as lightning. The rest are as a result of negligent practices or intent. So, it makes perfect sense that if you are visiting or living in the Andalucían countryside, you should be in a position to consider your options, if you are caught near a wildfire.
Many of the local people have been aware of fires in the countryside all of their lives, but wildfires are not something that many visitors or expats have ever had to deal with, coming as many of us do, from wet, northern European countries. We are unprepared.
So what should we do?
- Have a safe zone around your house, where there is less vegetation. Keep that area free of dried grass, weeds or other flammable materials.
- Cut back any branches of trees that overhang your house.
- Pay particular attention to discarded garden prunings and wood stores, making sure they are a safe distance from the house.
- Keep gas bottles either within the house or in a safe place some distance away.
- Don’t allow dead leaves to accumulate on your roof or gutters.
- When outside, ensure that all lit cigarettes are completely extinguished before you leave them.
- Never BBQ near to trees or flammable materials, and always have the garden hose nearby.
BE PREPARED! Prepare an advance plan with your family, considering what you will each do in the event of fire and how you will communicate with each other. Also think about how your pets fit into your plans.
- Review all your possible emergency escape routes, making sure they are never blocked.
- Always have at least one quarter of a tank of fuel in your vehicle.
- Prepare a list of items to be taken in an Evacuation Pack.
In the event of FIRE:
- Call the TOLL-FREE Emergency telephone number 112. DO NOT ASSUME THAT SOMEONE ELSE HAS ALREADY CALLED. They may be thinking the same thing.
- Close all doors and windows in your house.
- Bring all flammable outdoor chair cushions inside the house.
- Make safe any exterior gas bottles.
- STAY CALM and follow your escape plan (if necessary), taking with you your Evacuation Pack.
What should be in an Evacuation Pack?
Everyone’s will be different, but here are some items you might consider important enough to include:
- Personal papers – such as passports, birth and marriage certificates, house deeds or rental contract, medical cards, insurance policies.
- Photographs – either in albums, on flash drives, external hard drives or portable computers. Also take any charging cables you may require.
- Medication - paper prescriptions (if you have them), pills, or items kept in the refrigerator such as insulin.
- Money – enough to tide you over until you can visit an ATM.
- Emergency food, water and clothing – including snacks, pet food, baby formula, nappies, sanitary items, bottled water.
- Battery-powered radio – to listen to emergency bulletins on local radio station.
- Mobile telephone (and charging cable) – complete with contact telephone numbers and addresses.
- Irreplaceable precious items – but only small ones that will not hinder your escape.
If you live in Málaga province, you might also consider joining the excellent Local Fire and Weather watch group on Facebook, covering the Costa del Sol and inland areas.
I do not hold myself out as an expert on fire prevention and consider many of the above points to be common sense. If you can think of anything I have missed that you consider important enough to be included on this list, please let me know in the comment section.
Please follow East of Malaga on Facebook – there are many more photos and posts on there each day that never appear on this blog. Look in the footer at the bottom of this page to “Like”.
The eagerly anticipated announcement that Game of Thrones fans have been awaiting has been made. The United States Ambassador to Spain, James Costos, has confirmed that Series 5 of the popular TV series will be filmed in Andalucía, Spain.
The Royal Alcázars in Seville (Reales Alcázares de Sevilla), which is the oldest Royal palace in Europe, has been chosen as the main venue for the filming of Series 5 of the Game of Thrones. The Alcázar, originally a Moorish fortress, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, and the palace is one of the best remaining examples of mudéjar architecture. (Filming will take place from 14th – 22nd October 2014).
It has also been confirmed that filming will take place within the historic town of Osuna, in Seville province – the origins of which date back three thousand years.
Whilst the exact locations of all filming within Andalucía for the Water Gardens of Dorne is still being kept secret, it’s understood that the Alcázar of Córdoba, the Alhambra Palace in Granada and the Alcázar of Málaga have yet to be completely ruled out.
This is good news for Andalucía with a boost to the economy in the region of €80 million euros, creating around 900 permanent and 5000 temporary jobs, as well as a growth in tourism to the area.
EDITED TO ADD: The Spanish producer chosen by US TV network, HBO, for the filming of ‘Game of Thrones’, has just issued a casting call for Series 5. Interested persons should register with the following email address:
At this stage, specific characteristics for actors have not been announced – but hey – GO FOR IT!
Which location would be your choice? Would you like to be an extra in Game of Thrones?