What's on in Almayate... Day of the Drover May Romeria San Pedro Feria Virgen Carmen Candeleria Inmaculada Feria Living Nativity
Almost a feria every month!
Almayate seems to almost have more than its fair share of great festivals through the year – there’s one almost every month!
We’ve featured some of the highlights here – don’t miss the Romería and the ‘Living Nativity Scene’ – but of course there are more, including Carnival in January, Semana Santa in March/April, San Juan in June, Halloween on October 31st, and Navidad on December 25th. Of great help to us for providing photos to illustrate the festivals, has been the excellent local website, almayate.es, so our thanks go out to the guys that run it.
If you’ve been to one of these festivals don’t forget you’re invited to leave a comment describing your experience, (note that a Facebook account is necessary).
Day of the Drover
The full name of this relatively new festival is Día de la Yunta y su Gañán (Day of the Drover and his Bulls). It is a celebration of a method of farming that dates back hundreds of years in this area – the use of the bull and cart. It was possibly introduced during the 16th century by the new settlers after the Reconquest. But this day is also as much a tribute to the drovers, (the ‘gañáns’ as they are locally known), as to the draught animals, (the ‘Yunta’, which means the yoked bulls).
The event features a breed of bull that was originally from the Castille region of Northern Spain, but now extinct there. Fortunately, it is still reared in Almayate, though they are dwindling in numbers, and the mechanisation of agriculture has meant that there are probably less than a 100 of these animals left now. They are indeed bulls, not oxen, because they are not castrated, something that is thought unnecessary due to the animal’s natural docility, and because sterilization might lead to a lack of strength.
These huge animals, which can be 1.5 metres tall and weigh up to 1500 pounds in weight, are now more in demand in ferias than fields, and are certainly essential in this festival and to Almayate’s pilgrimage which follows a few days later.
So, in the large flat area behind the ‘Lo Pepe Molina’ bar-restaurant, the bull teams and drivers are put through their paces… There are a series of tests which the drover has to persuade his animals to carry out – the ‘Prueba de tiro’ (test of the teams), and the ‘Prueba de doma’ (dressage test). It is a measure of skill, so although the drover carries a long rod he rarely hits his animals, he just waves it in front of them or touches their backs.
The tests include the oxen either simply obeying his command; moving the cart into and out of ditches (either with both wheels or just one); climbing up a fairly steep mound of earth; or in one complicated manoeuvre, effectively doing a u-turn with the cart!
The second day of the festival is dedicated to the horse: horse riders and horse drawn carriages (photo left).
Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Romería
This romería (pilgrimage) is in honour of the patron Saint of the village, and takes place on the first Sunday in May. It is put on with the help of the local Brotherhood of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The celebration, one of the most popular of the province, attracts many people from all over the Axarquía, visitors and locals alike. It has the largest gathering of bull teams in the province, making it one of the key celebrations in the Axarquía that faithfully preserves the tradition of romerías.
The celebration begins at 8:00 am with a mass before continuing with the pilgrimage. At 1.00 pm there is a floral tribute and a Salve (hymn) to the Virgen del Carmen in the San Andrés church in Torre del Mar.
As many as 4000 participants dress up in traditional Andalucian costume travelling the kilometre between Almayate and an olive grove near Torre delMar, (the finca Taramillas near the El Ingenio shopping centre), over the old railway bridge, where they set up a temporary campsite.
The romería is certainly a pretty spectacle of colour, with the decorated carts being pulled by either bulls, horses, or tractors. Also making their way along the road are some 100 horse riders, and a vast number of ‘romeros’, young and old, participating in the pilgrimage. Families are known to travel far and wide to participate in the event.
Feria de San Pedro
The five-day feria at the end of June, in honour of Saint Peter opens with free paella and other titbits given away at some of the local bars in Almayate Bajo. This delicious treat is often repeated on other days during the feria as well.
Following this is a fun bike race for children and adults, an adaptation of the Carrera de cintas, a race where riders on horseback try to catch ribbons suspended above them. Fans of the real thing shouldn’t be disappointed though, as it’s usually put on a day or two later.
On following days there’s the customary election of a Queen for the feria, plus various prizes given out, for example for the best dressed ‘Mister’ and ‘Miss’, and for best costume (see photo left!).
There will be lots of live music and dancing of course in the afternoons and evenings, held in the official tent. It is usually more traditional during the day, and more ‘youth-orientated’ at night. Some are concerts by local groups, others are by professional artists brought in from further afield.
As it is Almayate, there’ll of course be a traditional display of carts pulled by the special ‘Almayate breed’ of bull, and also horse riders. On the last day there is a ‘grand paella’ given away free.
The feria marks the traditional day observed by Roman Catholics in honour of the martyrdom in Rome of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, held each year on the 29th of June.
Virgen del Carmen de Almayate
Almayate, someone said, consists of “country people and seafarers, and the Virgen del Carmen unites them all.” The procession of the Virgen takes place on the Sunday following the 16th of July – the day associated with the Virgen Carmen – unless of course the 16th of July is a Sunday. She is carried through the streets of Almayate Bajo and along the beach at Hornillo, before setting out to sea in a small fishing boat.
The festival of the Virgen del Carmen is a triduum, that is, a three day period of religious observance usually in preparation for an important celebration. In the Sagrado Corazón parish church in Almayate Bajo, on the first day, there are prayers for peace in the world; on the second, for the elderly and sick people of the parish; and on the third for families and for the needs of the parish.
This celebration of course goes back many centuries, and is performed all over the world. To trace the origins of the ‘Queen of the Seas’, as she is known, it is necessary to travel back to the Old Testament, to the time when the prophet Elijah retired to a cave on Mount Carmel, near Haifa, in northern Israel – the name Carmen is derived from this mountain. Elijah’s pilgrimage led to the formation in the 12th century of the Carmelite religious order, and the first church dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel was built. Hundreds of years later, people began to ask for the protection of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, including sailors and fishermen from around the world who adopted it as their patron.
Then, at this time of the year, all along the Málaga coast, the small villages that until recently were all communities of the sea, dependent on it to feed their citizens, asked the Virgin protector of sailors to also bless the waters and provide another bountiful year. In time it became part of the local culture, and the Virgin’s duties have been further extended to blessing a wider community, as shown by the masses in the triduum, so that now she is first carried out of the church and into the village to bless the houses, before heading out to do her traditional duties at sea.
Integral to the celebrations are the local brotherhoods who help manage the event, especially in regards to the carrying of the throne that the effigy of Carmen rides upon. In Almayate, at the end of the mass on the third day medals are handed out by the brotherhood in charge – La Hermandad Virgen del Carmen de Almayate – to its new members, as well as to local children baptized in the last year.
As the procession of the Virgen de Carmen is done in the evening after the service on the third day (about 8.30 pm), then by the time she returns from her small voyage just beyond the waves it is often quite dark. However, there are plenty of lights around, often candles, helping make it one of the most picturesque celebrations in the calendar. An added twist in Almayate’s take on the festival is the inclusion of its famous bulls who help tow the boat carrying the effigy over the beach to the sea.
Remember, remember… NOT the 5th of November, but in many parts of Spain, including Almayate, a date around the 7th or 8th of September.
It as an extremely old tradition, a typically Autumnal one, where in every neighbourhood people used to fill the streets with candles, and light bonfires with pieces of wood that had been especially collected and stored for weeks beforehand.
Nowadays, after making bonfires was banned inside most villages and towns (for obvious reasons), most are made out in the countryside. To add to the fun, straw dolls are dressed up and burnt in the fire as well! For the full story behind this tradition go here.
Feria de la Inmaculada
Every year, in early December, a pilgrimage is celebrated in honour of the patron saint of Almayate Alto / Valle-Niza, La Virgen Inmaculada Concepción.
It’s full name is the Feria de la Inmaculada de la Ermita Alta, referring to the little chapel in Almayate Alto called Ermita Alta.
This of course, points back to the time before the coastal settlement below Almayate Alto decided to call itself Valle-Niza. However, although the feria is regarded and advertised as a Valle-Niza one, it still centres on the ‘mother village’ as it were.
On the last day of the celebrations, and of prime importance, the locals carry the Virgin out of La Ermita Chapel and then put her onto a mule-drawn cart. Then, she’s taken in a procession around the village and into the countryside, in the hope that she’ll bless the homes and protect them throughout the year.
Also, during the the three or four days of the feria, there is musical entertainment featuring well-known groups and singers, plus horse racing in the form of the ever-popular ‘Carreras de cintas con los caballos’. Visually, the feria is also quite impressive, with many locals riding in illuminated mule-drawn carriages.
The Living Nativity Scene
Be prepared to travel back 2000 years in time for one of the most anticipated events during the Axarquían Christmas – El Belén Viviente de Almayate! Families, businesses, and local associations come together to create this wonderful living belén (nativity scene).
The live Nativity scene in Almayate is normally staged to coincide with the last weekend of the year. There are two performances, one on Saturday at 6.00pm, with special nocturnal atmosphere, and the other on Sunday at midday – the matinee. The performances are held in the grounds of Juan Paniagua School.
More than 150 people take part all dressed in period costumes. There are also more than 60 staff such as lighting and sound technicians in charge of the 24,000 watts of illumination and 5,000 watts of sound, video projection screens and a range of special effects. Year after year, they all come together to make the event a reality. The Priest is the coordinator and director of the performance.
Great care is taken over the tiniest details, and there are dozens of animals, such as donkeys, plus huge and heavy decorated scenery sets, put up over an area of more than 2700 square metres out in the open air. Every year part of the wardrobe is renewed and new elements that make it more realistic are incorporated.
In just over two hours you can relive 12 scenes from the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel through to the Flight to Egypt of Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus.
To give the event further authenticity, some of the village’s typical products are prepared on the spot during the performance, when two pigs are killed and products are made for public tasting – black pudding, meats, chorizo sausage, ‘migas’ (fried breadcrumbs), chestnuts, etc.These delicacies are then savoured by actors and audience alike at the end of the show.
What began in 2002 as a way to raise funds for the settlement of the parish, and of updating the old tradition of nativity scenes, has since been visited during its various editions by over 30,000 people, and has been declared by Málaga council as a festival of special importance.
Almayate pages guide
Use the links below to explore what you can see and do in Almayate, what festivals take place through the year, and to read about the area’s fascinating history.