Día de la Virgen del Carmen is celebrated in coastal towns and villages across Spain.
The Día de la Virgen del Carmen is being celebrated today, Friday, July 16th in many coastal towns and villages throughout Spain. Places as diverse as Almuñecar, on the coast of Granada province, and Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife share the festival with many other coastal communities in Andalucia, Murcia, Valencia and Catalonia.
It is worth checking with your local town hall (full list provided) as to whether events in your town will be held at all this year due to covid restrictions.
Fuengirola town council has cancelled all scheduled events planned for the 2021 annual fair in honour of Nuestra Señora del Carmen de Los Boliches. This decision was taken “following the recommendations of the Andalucian health authorities”, according to a statement from the town hall.
Due to the pandemic, each of the towns holding their own celebrations has had to adapt the proceedings according to their own traditions, plus taking into account strict covid restrictions.
A brief history of the Virgen del Carmen
The Old Testament prophet Elias, towards the end of his life, became a hermit in a cave on Mount Carmelo. Hundreds of years later, pilgrims trying to follow in the prophet’s footsteps, invoked the protection of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmelo – Stella Maris, the Virgin of Carmen. Now, the Virgin is the patroness and protector of all seamen, fishermen and even scuba divers!
Celebrations vary slightly from town to town. In Málaga city, for example, the procession takes place not only on July 16 but on the following Sunday. A recent Malagueñan tradition started in 1981, shows the Virgen del Carmen embracing all lovers of the sea – including scuba divers. That year, the City scuba diving club placed an image of their patron at the bottom of the sea and since then divers have paid their underwater homage annually.
Most of the Día de la Virgen del Carmen traditions involve at least one parade through the town, making its way to the seafront. Usually, a flower-strewn effigy of the Virgin is carried through the streets by a group of local fishermen. When they reach the sea, they are usually met by a flotilla of illuminated and decorated boats, all sounding their horns. After prayers are made for all those at sea, the statue is then customarily taken on a boat, around the local harbour as the fireworks and bands accompany her journey.
The Virgin, according to the legend, is responsible for keeping the waters around the shore clean and safe; many devotees used to refuse to swim until after July 16th!
Since 1981, for example, when local scuba divers placed an image of the Virgin on the sea bed, a part of the tradition in Malaga has involved divers paying their own respects to their underwater patron. In Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife doves are released when the Virgin is taken onto the boat.
Alicante, Nerja, Estepona, Port de Sóller, Torremolinos and Almería are among the larger towns that enjoy notable Día de la Virgen del Carmen festivals, along with smaller places such as La Cala and Rincon de la Victoria near Malaga- all of them following the same basic procedures.
Día de la Virgen days are amongst the most important celebrations in Spain, often uniting visitors and local inhabitants who together symbolically acknowledge the need for protection for ‘those in peril on the sea’.