I’ve noticed a recurring pattern–it feels like there’s a holiday happening in Spain every couple of weeks. Just a week ago, my friend Yoly, an American ex-pat like me in Pontevedra, sent a text that reminded me of that.
“Hey Felix,” she wrote, “Is today some kind of holiday here?”
“It is!” I confidently replied thanks to a heads-up from Andrea beforehand.
“What’s the occasion?” Yoly inquired, noticing the widespread business closures. “Good thing I don’t need anything from the store.”
“San Benitiño de Lérez,” I told her, sharing a snippet I found online about this Galician celebration.
“I think it’s also Galician Literature Day,” I continued.
Given the abundance of holidays and festivities, it shouldn’t have been a shocker to discover yet another one today.
Just as we arrived at Andrea’s mother’s place, Andrea received a message from her cousin.
“Change of plans,” Andrea announced. “Let’s go to Jaco’s boat for the Procesión marítima del Carmen!”
I hadn’t heard of that event before, but I guessed it was some kind of boat parade. As I later found out:
The Procesión marítima del Carmen en A Illa de Arousa is a cherished tradition held annually in July on the Galician island of A Illa de Arousa. This flotilla of boats sails down the Ulla River in honor of the Virgin of Carmen, the patron saint of sailors.from Bard (Google’s ChatGPT competitor)
Decked out with flowers and candles, the boats are manned by sailors dressed in traditional Galician attire. The procession is a jubilant affair, drawing crowds along the riverbanks to witness the boats glide by.
The Procesión marítima del Carmen holds deep significance for A Illa de Arousa. It’s a homage to the island’s culture and history, a time when people come together to celebrate their faith.
In 2008, the Procesión marítima del Carmen was officially designated as a Cultural Asset of Interest. It stands as one of Spain’s most prominent maritime processions, attracting visitors from around the globe.
Anyway, we drove over to a parking lot near Vilagarcía de Arousa and strolled to a pier just as Jaco’s boat was pulling in. We boarded and exchanged greetings with Jaco, his wife Marta, and their kids Leo and Lucas. And then, we were off on our adventure–or should I say, procession.
Here’s a quick video snippet. In a nutshell, it was an absolute blast!
Afterward, we headed to the quaint village of A Pobre do Caramiñal for a traditional Galician feast of patatas (fries), pulpo (octopus), pimientos de Padrón (sautéed peppers from Padrón–a town Andrea and I strolled through during our two-day Camino de Santiago in February), and calamari (fried squid).
Following that, we hopped back on the boat and docked at a secluded beach called Playa de Niñeiriños. There, we constructed sandcastles and even fashioned a mini swimming pool. An outgoing toddler joined us to build the pool, sans parental supervision – pretty normal in Spain.
Finally, the time came to return to Vilagarcía de Arousa. It was a day etched in memory–family, delectable food, beachside fun, a boat escapade, and, of course, the procession.
The Diario de Arousa posted their photos here.