Tuesday, 25 September 2018

El Hierro: La virgen de Los Reys fiesta

Only once every 4 years does the Virgen de los Reyes decend from her remote ermita on a long pilgrimage down to the coast at Valverde but every year there are two celebrations where she has a quick whizz around the ermita accompanied by dancers and musicians.
The dancers, men and women, wear a peculiar costume with white lace petticoats, a red apron with pockets and extraordinary headwear. The bonnet is variously decorated with flowers, feathers, sequins and long ribbon streamers. The dance is energetic and rythmic with castanets. 
The carved wooden image of the virgen was brought to El Hierro in 1548 when a ship on its way to the new world was becalmed off shore, the crew ran out of food and water, they were provided with supplies by shepherds, in return they donated the only object of value on board, an image of the virgin, immediately a wind came and they could continue their voyage, it was the day of epiphany or Kings' day in Spanish and so she was named.
It is thought that these costumes must have been introduced to the island by early 16th century settlers from Galicia, Asturias, Portugal and Extremadura as there are very similar costumes in these places. They also reminded me of Morris Men which apparently could orginally have been Moorish Men, an ethnological puzzle.

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