Fiesta Virgen del Carmen
Peter and Avril Brookes
Sun 17 Jul 2011 08:37
Yesterday saw Almerimar transformed as the town came out in force to celebrate the annual Fiesta Virgen del Carmen. Nothing to do with Bizet’s Carmen, who I’m pretty sure wasn’t a virgin, but a celebration to honour the Virgin Mary of Carmelo, the patron saint of Fishermen and Sailors.
The first hints began as the day became punctuated with deafening rockets that exploded at intervals throughout the day. Then a marching band resplendent in scarlet uniform paraded around the harbour. This was only the warm up act and attracted very little attention, possibly because neither the marching nor the playing were actually in time with anything, least of all each other.
Then the town began to fill up. We noticed many boat owners had come to join their boats and quite a few were dressed overall. The cafes and bars that are usually filled to about 10% occupancy were overflowing and the car parks full. What was particularly striking was the smart, almost formal wear of the people. The only shorts and tee shirts were on us! As the evening approached, an effigy of the Virgen del Carmen was carried around the harbour adorned with flowers. She was preceded by the rocket launcher who set off rockets at every street corner. She was followed by a tuneful cheerful brass band and then the rest of the town’s inhabitants. There were few spectators as everyone joined in. When she had been carried the entire length of the harbour she was put on a flower laden boat and continued her journey out of the harbour followed by a small flotilla of yachts and small motor boats. The rocket launcher and band were not forgotten and had their own craft to travel on. Again many were dressed overall and they made a spectacular sight. The boats were filled with as many people as would fit on the decks. One motor boat had its bow so low in the water it appeared to be heading straight for the bottom! This same boat also had about a dozen people on the flybridge which would comfortably have taken two! Despite it being way past our bedtime, we joined the throng to see the boats parade around the bay and back into the harbour where fireworks and the Spanish national anthem finished off the celebrations.
Or so we thought. At 3.45 am the noise from the restaurants and bars was finally too much and I had to shut the hatches and ports to try and get some sleep. We had forgotten the party ethic of those who socialise as families and friends all night long. This was no bing drinking, youth led culture that alienated half the town, but a genuine coming together as a whole community to celebrate. Wonderful!