THE 2020 FESTIVAL SEASON IN ANDALUCIA
by Fiona Flores Watson
One of the many unfortunate effects of the Coronavirus outbreak here in Andalucia is the cancellation of the region's most spectacular and colourful spring festivals.
A number of the 3,000-odd historic, much-loved festive events which form the heart of social life all around the region are being cancelled, from March onwards. Holy Week, the Feria de Abril in Seville, and El Rocio are three of the most famous spring events which will not take place as planned this year.
It is difficult to over-estimate how closely these events are tied up with the identity of Andalucians, and their importance to people in southern Spain. Having said that, the region's inhabitants, both Spanish and those who are from other countries, fully understand the importance of staying at home in order to avoid infection, and thereby combat the spread of the virus.
Everyone will be looking forward more than ever to the 2021 festival season, although hopefully the Feria de Abril (Spring Fair) 2020 will still be held in Seville - it has a possible new date in September. This may also be the case with other ferias.
Semana Santa - Holy Week
Semana Santa is an important week in the calendar for many Andalucian towns and cities; for some it is arguably the most significant. The Holy Week processions, which take place in March/April (dates were 5-11 April this year) are a tradition going back centuries. Millions of people, keen to watch this theatrical pageantry on a grand scale, come to the main cities in Andalucia, most notably Seville, Granada and Malaga.
This will be the first time that Semana Santa in Seville has been cancelled since 1933. In economic terms, the cancellation of this event represents a loss of 400 million euros to the city's tourism industry; emotionally, it is devastating for those who normally take part.
This particular event cannot be postponed, since its dates are specific to the Christian calendar, so we will have to wait until 2021 for the next Holy Week.
Ferias - fairs
People in Andalucia look forward to their local fairs all year - the fashion, the dancing, the music, the socialising. Every village, town and city has its own feria and/or romeria, in which all ages participate; it's the highlight of the social calendar.
The season of fairs, or ferias, normally starts in April, kicking off with the largest and most celebrated of all: the Feria de Abril in Seville, originally scheduled to take place from 26 April to 2 May 2020.
This is the first time that the Feria de Abril has been cancelled since the inaugural year, 1847.
The bad news was softened by an announcement that the Feria de Abril had been rescheduled for the last two weeks in September. However the Mayor announced on 24-04-2020 that the plan to hold the 2020 Spring Fair (Feria de Abril) in September has now been abandoned. One of the main considerations was cost since 2m euro of the budget had already been spent.
The Feria del Caballo in Jerez has been moved to new dates in October (see below), which will probably also be the case for the Feria de Cordoba.
Romerias - pilgrimages
The cancellations also affect local romerias, which can be anything from small village pilgrimages to the local shrine, to the mighty El Rocio, with around one million participants.
El Rocio pilgrimage, to the wild-west town of El Rocio, close to Doñana National Park, has been suspended as well.
One million people will now not spend the weekend before Pentecost Monday (29 May to 1 June) in the small, pretty town near Almonte.
The Hermandad Matriz del Rocio de Almonte, which organises the pilgrimage, announced on Monday 23 March "with pain, and yet strength" the suspension of the pilgrimage. This also includes all associated events, such as the procession of Blanca Paloma, as she is known, in regal dress through the streets of Almonte, due to take place on 17 May.
The statue has been in Almonte since last August, as happens every seven years, traditionally during epidemics, disasters and acts of thanksgiving. She was due to return to El Rocio on 24 May, just before the pilgrimage.
List of events cancelled
Semana Santa (throughout Andalucia)
Feria de Abril (Seville) - postponed until late September
Cruces de Mayo
Feria de Cordoba - may be held in October
Fiesta de los Patios, Cordoba - may be held at the same time as the Feria de Cordoba
Feria del Caballo de Jerez (Cadiz) - postponed until 10-17 October
Feria de la Manzanilla, Sanlucar de la Barraneda (Cadiz)
El Rocio, Almonte (Huelva)
San Isidro in Estepona 15th of May
In Estepona the celebration on the beach of the night of San Juan 24th June
In Estepona the Summer Feria which normally takes place the first week in July is cancelled.
See this page for more summer fairs
It is likely that any feria due to take place in July will go ahead in a limited form. Any Feria due to go ahead in August such a Malaga Feria will be near to normal.