THE 2020 & 2021 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 were cancelled in 2020 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 understood the importance of staying at home in order to avoid infection, and thereby combat the spread of the virus.
Festivals and Processions were cancelled in 2020 and 2021. It is hoped they may return in Spring 2022.
Ferias - fairs
18-09-2021 The Cádiz City Council announced its decision to postpone the 2022 Carnival from February to June. The start of the Official Contest of Carnival Groups will move to April 25. The Cádiz Carnival will take place from June 9 to 19 2022.
21-07-2021 The Mayor of Malaga Francisco de la Torre now has announced that the Malaga "Feria 2021 is not going to take place", solemn words considering that at the beginning of July his words were "will be in September - in Auguest it will not be". Most towns (with the exception of Estepona) have either cancelled their summer fairs or are holding smaller events.
Some of the smaller later summer ferias in 2021 may go ahead. Estepona in week July 5th was an example. However the lack of practical social distancing and rise in rates in July 2021 is making late summer feria less likely.
17-12-2020 Seville Town Hall confirmed that the Seville April Fair would not take place. The mayor explained that in a best case scenario only 30% of the population would be immunised by then.
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.
2020 was 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 had been moved to new dates in October 2020 (and was later cancelled).
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 town of El Rocio, close to Doñana National Park, was suspended in 2020 and 2021.
One million people did not spend the weekend before Pentecost Monday 2020 in the small, pretty town near Almonte.
The Hermandad Matriz del Rocio de Almonte, which organises the pilgrimage, announced on Monday 23 March 2020 "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.
The statue had 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.
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 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.
2020 was 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.