Moving the Throne

The huge crowd accompanying the Virgin's throne, Las Nieves, Santa Cruz de la Palma
The huge crowd accompanying the Virgin's throne, Las Nieves, Santa Cruz de la Palma

The main event on Sunday was the huge procession to bring the Virgin’s throne down from Las Nieves to Santa Cruz de la Palma.

The throne comes apart into perhaps twenty pieces, each mad of wood, covered with silver. It’s a great honour to carry one, but some of the sections look like they weigh a ton.

Pieces of the Virgin's throne, Las Nieves, La Palma island
Pieces of the Virgin's throne leaving Las Nieves church

Last time I went to the bajada del trono it was baking hot. Sunday was cloudy, which is most unusual for July. That made the light less attractive for photography, but much pleasanter for walking along in a crowd.

And what a crowd! According to the island government, there were 72,000 of us. Certainly the full width of the road was jammed solid for at least the half-kilometre I could see. Considering that the normal population of the island is 86,000 that’s amazing. Of course lots of ex-pat Palmerans come home for the bajada, and lots of tourists come too. I wouldn’t be surprised if the island sank a little lower into the sea under the weight of all the visitors.

Child in traditional dress, Las Nieves, Santa Cruz de la Palma
Child in traditional dress, Las Nieves, Santa Cruz de la Palma

Many of the crowd wore the traditional dress. I think they look lovely, especially the little kids, but the costume is very slow to make yourself (all that embroidery!) or expensive to buy. Maybe for the next bajada. And cute as the infants are, I think a lot of them found it all too much.

Child in traditional dress, Las Nieves, Santa Cruz de la Palma
Child in traditional dress, Las Nieves, Santa Cruz de la Palma

People come from all over the Canary Islands. I enjoyed the group of guitarists and singers from Lanzarote, but my favourite was the group of musicians and dancers from El Hierro, dressed in white and red.

El Hierro is the smallest of the Canary islands, and they ahve their own bajada every four years. Although El Hierro is only 12 km across, they carry the statue of the virgin right the way across the island, dancing all the way (in shifts.) When I first heard the music on the TV, I found it far too shrill, but when you hear it live, the WHUMP! Of the big drums balances out the flutes beautifully, and you want to dance.

Dancers from El Hierro, Bajada de la Virgen, Santa Cruz de la Palma
Dancers from El Hierro, Bajada de la Virgen, Santa Cruz de la Palma

Lots of other groups of friends brought their guitars and mandolins, and were singing traditional songs as they went. Most of the crowd bring along drinks and snacks, either in shoulder bags and traditional wine-skins, or on wheels. I saw quite a few decorated supermarket trolleys, including one that had a barbecue going. Yup, they were grilling sausages as they went.

Mobile BBQ,  Bajada de la Virgen, Santa Cruz de la Palma
Mobile BBQ, Bajada de la Virgen, Santa Cruz de la Palma

Although this is was a big event, the really big procession takes place on July 17th, when they bring the statue of the Virgin herself down to Santa Cruz. That’s usually a much more solemn, religious affair.

The huge crowd accompanying the Virgin's throne, Las Nieves, Santa Cruz de la Palma
The huge crowd accompanying the Virgin's throne, Las Nieves, Santa Cruz de la Palma

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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