The Festival of Virgen del Carmen

Crowd outside the church waiting for the doors to open

In a festival that dates back several hundred years, many coastal towns and fishing villages in Spain celebrate the Fiesta del Día de Virgen del Carmen as the protector of mariners and fishermen.

Every year around 16th July, spectacular maritime processions of decorated fishing boats known as jabegas head out to sea carrying their precious cargo – an effigy of the Virgen del Carmen, to bless their fishing grounds.

The vessels, many decorated with brightly coloured flags and bunting, each crowded with people, gather under the late dusk sky patiently waiting for the official party of sailors, fishermen, clergy and authorities to bring the Statue of the Virgin on board the boat that will lead the procession.

But before that, the Virgen del Carmen is paraded through the streets for all to see.  There is an air of excitement with people surging forward for the best views as the parade passes by, before making its way to the water´s edge.

Doors open - and there she is!

Virgen del Carmen 2012

Carrying the statue with bare feet

The line of bearers carrying the Virgen del Carmen

Solemn faces as they carry the statue through the streets

The crowds jostle for position to get the best view

Crowded boats waiting for the Virgen del Carmen to arrive at the harbourside

Caleta de Velez harbour as dusk falls

Harbour marker beacon flashes

Boats awaiting the arrival of the Virgen del Carmen

Excited people crowd onto the boats

The statue of Virgen del Carmen being loaded onto the boat

Celebrations vary slightly from town to town along the coast, east of Málaga.  In La Caleta de Vélez the parade is held each year on the feast day of the Virgen del Carmen, 16th July.   Some towns and villages celebrate the following weekend, but there will be posters displayed in local shops, announcing the day and time, if you want to join in the festivities.

My photographs show last year´s celebrations in La Caleta de Vélez, situated at the mid-coastal point of La Axarquía region.

In the video below, you can see the festivities held in 2011 in the town of Torre del Mar, just along the coast from La Caleta de Vélez.

Which is your favourite Spanish festival or fiesta?


Whilst you´re here, why not have a look at the following articles too?

The heart of Cómpeta: El Paseo de las Tradiciones

Patatas a lo pobre: Poor man´s potatoes

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Golden Hour


47 thoughts on “The Festival of Virgen del Carmen

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    • In all honestly I don’t know – I suspect the dark trousers and white shirts are easy to come by, and the red just binds it all together to make it look more like a uniform. The trousers are rolled up and they are barefoot because they sometimes carry the statue right into the water to carefully place it onboard the boat.

  2. We have a fabulous “Enchanted Nights”, with bellydancers and hookahs taking place in Cacela Velha right now, Marianne. Missed it by a whisker! Lots happening this time of year, and on our last night there was a procession of Nossa Senhora from the Carmo Church in Tavira. Santa Luzia have the maritime one, but I only ever caught it once, and can’t remember the date. I thought they were walking barefoot because they were venturing into the sea. 🙂

  3. I’m impressed they still (except for one shod fellow!) walk barefoot with the weight of the statue, all looking so solum, which I suppose means they’re really into the rituals and their purpose, which is why they’re still practiced. i’ve a question: How do they decide whose boat the Virgin visits?

  4. I can understand why you love this festival. The community all coming together…the pageantry of it all. I really love the B&W close up shot Mariannne. You really caught a wonderful moment there !!

  5. I’m staying in Nerja at the moment. Had no idea that this festival was on – we were treated to an incredible fireworks display last night! (And, it has to be said, some highly questionable live music on el balcon de Europa…)

    • Ah yes, I heard there was a live band on the Balcon – and how they love their firework displays in Nerja 🙂

      Having a good time, Josh? I thought you were back in Blighty at the moment.

      • Nipped back for a bit of beach action didn’t I. Had to sort out residence contract and tax stuff so thought I may as well make the most of it! Back in London now though 😦

  6. Lovely photos. It reminds me that there is an event coming up here in a few weeks where hundreds of the locals all walk a large number of miles up to a Monastery. It happened the week before we moved here, and I remember promising that I would do it this year. I wouldn’t go barefott, but I believe a large number do.

    • I love to walk barefoot around the house, but like you, I wouldn’t like to walk miles on public roads or tracks anywhere.

      Thanks Elle – much appreciated you taking the time to comment 🙂

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  9. Beautiful images. The people look so happy, healthy & tanned, and their feet -wow – we’d be so much better off if we could go barefoot more as they appear to do 🙂

    • I love walking barefoot, too. Though it’s quite a long way for them to walk carrying the Virgen del Carmen, but I guess that’s all part of the devotion.

      Thanks for your lovely comment, EllaDee 🙂

    • I think as much of it is the tradition – people have attended such fiestas since they were children, with their parents and grandparents – so I guess they continue the tradition with their own children.

      Whatever the reason – I’m so glad they do!

      • Love the photos, Marianne, but I’m with Artichoke Adventures – I watch these festivals with a mixture of awe, amusement, repulsion and respect. I never know which emotion will get the better of me, depends on how those taking part react. I expected to be derisive about the penitents at Semana Santa, yet was strangely drawn to it. When I think of the apparently simple faith of some of the onlookers and participants, and then think about what the modern church has become I shudder though. I’m all for the maintenance and restoration of traditions, for learning about from where we come, but I always, inevitably wonder if the traditions survive because of the church or the church survives because of the tradtions.

  10. Wonderful photos, video, and post, Marianne. Whether one’s a believer, it is remarkable to see people, from so many coastal communities, come out to celebrate an event. Thanks for taking us there.

  11. Wonderful photos of this festival, Marianne. I’m afraid my internet is too slow to watch the video. I love the night photo of the boats and their reflections. So pretty. 🙂

  12. Wonderful photos, especially as dusk falls. I’ve never seen a maritime fiesta – it looks extraordinary and well worth experiencing! My own favourite is El Rocio – the combination of the outfits, animals, carretas, singing and dancing is just amazing.

    • I would say it’s well worth the effort to see, Fiona. Don’t they have an inland Sevilliana equivalent – like the San Juan night water fight in Lanjaron?

  13. I like this festival, I saw it in Sete in France a few years back. Funnily enough, I have never seen it in Spain – not a time of year I travel there normally. But I’ll try to put that right next year!

I´d love to hear from you, and much appreciate your comments. Thank you.

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