Over 30,000 devotees escort the Virgin to El Socorro in a massive procession

The longest-standing pilgrimage dedicated to the Virgin in the Canary Islands spans eight kilometres, travelling from central Güímar to the coastal village amidst a display of devotion and Canarian heritage; the return journey is set for this afternoon.

Around 35,000 people flocked to the quaint hamlet of El Socorro yesterday to partake in the time-honoured festivities dedicated to the Virgin, who has been revered here for over five centuries. Aside from minor incidents like a sprained ankle and cases of hypertension, which were promptly attended to by medical staff, the event unfolded smoothly.

The day kicked off at dawn, perhaps the most stirring part of the day, when the image of the Virgin emerged from the doors of the San Pedro parish following a Mass officiated by Bishop Bernardo Álvarez. The crowd that had gathered in the square erupted into the pasodoble ‘Al Socorro,’ marking the commencement of the Descent, a four-hour procession that transformed the eight-kilometre road into a massive river of humanity. The event blended religious piety with more worldly celebrations, standing as the oldest pilgrimage in the Canary Islands.

Over 30,000 devotees escort the Virgin to El Socorro in a massive procession.

Though its origins are somewhat disputed, the pilgrimage dates back to around 1643, according to Octavio Rodríguez, the official historian of Güímar. Regardless, the event has been held continuously for 177 years. Unconventional in its nature, the pilgrimage lacks typical attire or pageantry, save for a few individuals donned in aboriginal costumes and T-shirts bearing the Virgin’s image.

Despite the midday heat of around 28 degrees Celsius and no relieving breeze, a throng of attendees marched alongside the Virgin, who arrived at her shrine as scheduled, thanks to her GPS-enabled tracking. She was carried by six of the seven Modesto Campos brothers and was accompanied by the Guanches community and several political figures, including Fernando Clavijo, the president of the Canary Islands Government; Rosa Dávila, president of The Island Council; and Gustavo Pérez, the mayor of Güímar.

Later in the day, a reenactment of the Virgin’s apparition to the Guanches was performed at Llano de la Virgen near the Cruz de Tea, attracting huge public interest. The event harked back to the year 1400 and was brought to life by 200 extras, echoing the narrative penned by Fray Alonso de Espinosa in 1594, which marks the beginning of Tenerife’s Christianisation.

The day concluded with the procession of Las Candelas and folk music enlivened the hamlet. In a show of hospitality, locals opened their doors to visitors, sharing regional potatoes and wine.

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