Almonte is a small rural town, one of the famous white villages in Andalucia. But it has some very interesting and unique festivals, which are all based on customs typical for the Doñana area. The Andalucian horse plays a very important role in the life of the people here. Nearly everybody rides or owns horses, it seems. They ride through the town, cross the main road or exercise their horse in the field nearby and make them dance.
After the festivities of Easter have died down the Romerìa is next on the calendar. The pilgrimage to El Rocio at Pentecost is a vibrant exhibition of traditional costume and religious fervour. This takes place in late May or early June, depending on the date of Easter. This is the most important date in the calendar of Almonte, as the Virgin of El Rocio, La Paloma Blanca, is carried also to Almonte every seven years, and back to her shrine in El Rocio.
In June, on the 26th, then the running of the mares, La Saca de las Yeguas, takes place. Also a fiesta that occupies a whole week of festivities as it merges into the fiesta of the local patron saint, San Pedro. The mares and foals are herded up from the marismas, the wetlands, of the Doñana National Park, and driven by riders first into El Rocio and then into Almonte. Everybody lines the streets to see the up to 1,000 half-wild horses run by, together with the exhausted and dusty Yeguerizos, who have already spent days camping out in the marismas [see https://www.spain-holiday.com/Almonte/articles/the-saca-de-las-yeguas-almonte-huelva and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFscycRzYq8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UzIPTZl_mo ].
In the outskirts of Almonte, in the towns special corral, the horses are being prepared for sale. They are being cleaned, their manes and tails are cut, young horses branded. These horses are of the local Marismena race, a race that is known for its strength and endurance.
We are very lucky in the way that our finca actually lies along the camino that the horses are guided back by the riders to their grazing grounds in the national park. They literally passed by our gates the other morning.
The wetland of El Rocio: