The Procession of the Three Kings
The Procession of the Three Kings in Huelva was an idea of the Álvarez Quintero Artistic Association on Christmas 1921. The association performed some theatre plays – one of them told the story of a child’s dream after falling asleep while thinking of the Three Kings. After the play, the audience was asked for a small money donation and a toy. Soon afterwards, the local press announced a procession for January 1922. This first procession, which was excitedly expected by children, went around most of the city centre. The Three Kings appeared on horses at La Merced Square and went along the Paseo de la Independencia, San José Street, and Concepción Street until the Hotel Colón – today Casa Colón. They continued their procession along Italia Avenue, Plaza Niña Square, Paz Street, Alfonso XII Street, Vázquez López Street, and so on. The procession started with a fanfare of trumpets followed by the Star of Bethlehem, together with heralds carrying flags and Moorish riders carrying torches. Then came King Melchior with his retinue followed by women carrying toys and Kings Caspar and Balthasar with their retinues. After the Kings, some shepherds were leading their flocks of sheep and street people playing tambourines, zambombas – a typical Spanish music instrument –, and small drums. The Official Music Band of Huelva also attended the procession. After the procession, the Three Kings visited the schools and hospitals of the city to give toys to the children. On 6 January, the Three Kings also visited the residents of the Old People’s Home of Huelva. The City Council of Huelva called for a popular collection – 250 pesetas – to carry out this initiative together with the money collected during a cultural soiree celebrated by the Álvarez Quintero Artistic Association. All in all, the popular collection ended up collecting 1,537.30 pesetas – in that time, pesetas had cents – and more than 3,500 toys. Even today, the same activities – the procession on 5 January and the visits to the hospitals and the Old People’s Home – are still carried out.
St. Sebastian’s Festival
Saint Sebastian has been worshipped as Patron Saint of Huelva since the people of Huelva prayed to him for his help against the epidemics which attacked the city in the past. Thus, St. Sebastian’s Festival is not a recent phenomenon. A papal bull by Pope Leo X in 1516 mentions the existence of a hermitage dedicated to St. Sebastian in Huelva – that means that this festival has been celebrated for around five hundred years. The first written references to the festival take us further back to 1613. Nevertheless, Huelva would not pose the necessity of officially recognizing him as Patron Saint of the city until the beginning of the 18th century. Thus, Saint Sebastian became the Patron Saint of Huelva on 28 April 1738, and he would be commemorated every year on 20 January. The celebration of festivals in honour of Saint Sebastian is a good example of the rich patrimony of our city. The carving depicting the saint was made by the famous carver Enrique Pérez Comendador. The procession takes place on the Sunday immediately after 20 January and goes along the streets of the ancient district of San Sebastián – famous for its vegetable-strewn balcony competition and its ambulant stalls selling palm hearts – in the city centre. Music is played at Alonso Sánchez Park; an ambulant amusement park is settled at La Soledad Square, and there are popular food tastings of typical dishes of Huelva such as choco con habas (‘squid with beans’) – all of them are activities of great ethnographic interest for both locals and visitors. The religious brotherhood known as ‘Hermandad de los Estudiantes’ has been in charge of organising all the cults and the procession in honour of Saint Sebastian since 1978. The carving, which was made in 1941 by Enrique Pérez Comendador, was restored by Jesús Mendoza Ponce.
The Carnaval Colombino
The Carnaval Colombino is a popular festival from year 1863. In that time, a fancy-dress ball was celebrated on the occasion of the inauguration of the Círculo Mercantil y Agrícola (‘Trade and Agriculture Circle’). Fancy-dress balls were celebrated from 1880 to 1936 – during that period, dances, processions, parades, and carnival singing competitions were widely attended. This first phase ended in 1936 with the Spanish Civil War, and it was not until 1983 when several carnival lovers went to the City Hall of Huelva asking for the floats of the Procession of the Three Kings. One month later, this carnival was named ‘Carnaval Colombino’. In 1984, the FOPAC (Federation of Carnival Clubs & Associations in Huelva) was created to be the organism in charge of organizing the Carnaval Colombino, which is today one of the most important carnivals in Andalusia. That same year, the first carnival group competition was celebrated at the Great Theatre. Things went on like that until the Great Theatre had to be closed halfway through 1986 to be restored. Consequently, the competition was celebrated at the Andrés Estrada Sports Centre, the Palacio del Cine, the Rábida Cinema – both of them today missing –, and under a marquee inside the Bullring of Huelva. In 1992, the first Official Carnival Competition of Huelva was celebrated – many carnival groups from the city itself and the towns participated at it. Among the activities which were celebrated, we must remark the prizes for the Choquera Mayor – the winning adult group – and the Choquera Infantil – the winning child group –, the edition of the official poster, the Vuelta de la Noria – a popular show where carnival groups sing and the audience is offered free chickpea dishes and cheap drinks –, the Carnival Cycling Marathon, and so on. The Carnival ends with the Entierro del Choco (‘The Burial of the Squid’), where men dress up as widows and go out in a funeral procession to burn a squid – this symbolises the end of Carnival.
The Holy Week
The first written references say that the celebration of Holy Week in Huelva dates from around the second half of the 16th century. Coinciding with a both demographic and economic growth, three brotherhoods still existing were founded – El Santo Entierro (‘The Holy Burial’), El Nazareno (‘Jesus Christ of Nazareth’), and La Vera Cruz (‘The True Cross’). In 1605, Archbishop Fernando Niño de Guevara allowed the construction of the Convent of Nuestra Señora de la Merced at the outskirts of Huelva, at the area known as Vega Larga. In that time, the coastline of Huelva was continuously raided by Berber pirates, so the Mercedarian monks’ mission was trying to delivering captives from pirates – this is the reason of the deep-rootedness of both this religious order and locals’ devotion to the Cristo de Jerusalén y Buen Viaje (‘Jesus Christ of Jerusalem and Good Journeys’) as they prayed to Him for His protection before going on a trip during hard times. The 18th century witnessed Huelva’s recovering and the foundation of new brotherhoods such as that of Nuestra Señora de La Merced (‘Our Lady of Mercy’), previously known as ‘Los Judíos’ (‘The Jews’). Throughout the 19th century, the Holy Week of Huelva witnessed the creation of two new brotherhoods – Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza (‘Our Lady of Hope’) in 1893, known as ‘San Francisco’ for being founded at the Convent of the same name, and the Hermandad Cívico-Religiosa de la Centuria Romana (‘Civic-Religious Brotherhood of Roman Centurions’), which went out in procession for the last time in 1924. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Hermandad de Jesús de la Pasión (‘Brotherhood of Jesus of the Passion’) was founded at the Parish Church of San Pedro in 1922 and the Hermandad de Nuestra Madre de la Consolación en sus Dolores (‘Brotherhood of Our Mother in the Consolation of Her Sorrows’) at the Colegio de los Padres Agustinos. The first decade of the 20th century will contribute to the peak of religious brotherhoods and associations not only quantitatively but also artistically. As an example, we may remark the embroidered tapestries by artist Juan Manuel Rodríguez Ojeda for the Brotherhoods of La Merced, La Vera Cruz, and El Santo Entierro. After the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Huelva witnessed a progressive recovering of its religious brotherhoods and the foundation of more ones from 1943 on. It was then when the Brotherhoods of El Cristo de la Victoria (‘Jesus Christ of Victory’) and Nuestra Señora de la Paz (‘Our Lady of Peace’), also known as ‘Los Mutilados’ (‘The Crippled’), were founded. The Brotherhoods of El Silencio (‘The Silence’) and Nuestra Señora de La Soledad (‘Our Lady of Solitude’) were founded in 1944 together with those of Nuestro Padre Jesús de la Humildad y María Santísima de la Victoria (‘Our Father Jesus of Humility and Holy Mary of Victory’) and Nuestro Padre Jesús de las Penas en sus Tres Caídas y Nuestra Señora del Amor (‘Our Sorrowful Father Jesus at His Three Falls and Our Lady of Love’). One year later, Huelva witnessed the foundation of the Hermandad de la Entrada Triunfal de Jesús en Jerusalén y Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (‘Brotherhood of Jesus’s Triumphal Entrance in Jerusalem and Our Lady of Angels’), popularly known as ‘La Borriquita’ (‘The Small Donkey’). In 1946, the religious brotherhood of Los Estudiantes (‘The Students’) was created with the carvings of El Cristo de la Sangre (‘Jesus Christ of the Blood’) and Nuestra Señora del Valle (‘Our Lady of the Valley’). Two years later, we witness the foundation of two more brotherhoods – the Hermandad del Cristo del Amor y Nuestra Señora del Rosario (‘Brotherhood of Jesus Christ of Love and Our Lady of the Rosary’) and the Hermandad de la Santa Cena (‘Brotherhood of the Last Supper’). In 1951, the Hermandad del Sagrado Descendimiento y María Santísima en la Resignación en sus Dolores (‘Brotherhood of Jesus’s Sacred Descent and Holy Mary at Resignation from Her Sorrows’) was created. As a consequence of this religious heyday of the Holy Week in Huelva, the Unión de Cofradías (‘Association of Religious Brotherhoods’) was founded on 3 June 1944 at the Parish Church of San Pedro. The 1970s witnessed the birth of a new brotherhood – the Postconciliar Hermandad y Cofradía de Nuestro Señor Jesús del Calvario y María Santísima del Rocío y Esperanza (‘The Brotherhood of Our Father and Lord Jesus at the Calvary and Holy Mary of El Rocío and Hope’), founded in 1972. New brotherhoods were also founded in the 1980s. In 1980, the Hermandad de La Lanzada (‘Brotherhood of the Holy Lance’) presented its statutes and went out in procession for the first time in 1987. The statutes of the Hermandad del Cristo de la Misericordia (‘Brotherhood of Jesus Christ of Forgiveness’) were approved in 1982, so this brotherhood could went out in procession for the first time in 1984. The Hermandad de Penitencia del Santo Cristo Cautivo y María Santísima Madre de la Misericordia (‘Penitence Brotherhood of Captive Holy Christ and Holy, Compassionate Mother Mary’) went out in procession for the first time in 1985. In 1988, the Cristo del Perdón (‘Jesus Christ of Forgiveness’) went out in procession – so would do the Cristo de la Fe (‘Jesus Christ of Faith’) in 1991. In these years, other brotherhoods like La Redención (‘The Redemption’), La Sentencia (‘The Sentence’), La Santa Cruz (‘The Holy Cross’), and El Resucitado (‘Christ Resurrected’) have been also founded.
The Depart of the Religious Brotherhoods for El Rocío
The Real, Venerable y Fervorosa Hermandad de Nuestra Señora del Rocío de Emigrantes de Huelva (‘Royal, Venerable, and Fervent Brotherhood of Our Lady of El Rocío of Emigrantes of Huelva’) is one of the most famous religious brotherhoods which make a pilgrimage to the village of Almonte. The pilgrimages of the Brotherhood of Emigrantes always start on Wednesdays. The Pilgrim Mass starts at 8.00 a.m. and initiates the beginning of the pilgrimage around the city. During it, people joyfully cheer the White Dove – a name given to the Virgin of El Rocío. Pilgrims make their most important halts at the Civil Guard Station, where flowers are offered; at the City Hall, where the Mayor and the City Council Representatives see off the group with the Official Music Band of Huelva and the Choir of the Brotherhood; and the Navy Station, where pilgrims arrive by 1.30 p.m. to sing a Salve Marinera – the official anthem of the Spanish Navy. Then pilgrims pick up their badges, lighten the wagon of the Simpecado – a banner depicting Our Lady of El Rocío with the Latin motto Sine Labe Concepta (‘Born without Sin’) –, and go on along Francisco Montenegro Avenue until they reach the Friary of La Rábida – a traditional place for having breaks for lunch and watering the horses and mules. The group restarts the pilgrimage along the Highway of Mazagón. Between Km 16 and Km 17, they arrive in the sand path which connects the Path of Moguer with the region of Tres Rayas. There, pilgrims stop to have their nightly rest and enjoy themselves between the pines and eucalypts of the area. The pilgrimage of the Real e Ilustre Hermandad de Nuestra Señora del Rocío de Huelva (‘Royal and Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Lady of El Rocío of Huelva’) to Almontestarts on Thursday at 8.00 a.m. with the emotional Pilgrim Mass. The Brotherhood is met at the entrance of the City Hall by the City Council Representatives and the Official Music Band of Huelva. There, rose petals are thrown all over the Simpecado of the Brotherhood while bystanders and devotees witness the sight. The group goes on and arrives in the Navy Station, where they pray and sing the already mentioned, traditional Salve Marinera. There they end the procession, pick up the badges, and start the pilgrimage. The richly decorated wagon of the Simpecado is driven to the Rio Tinto Loading Bay, where pilgrims turn back to say goodbye to Huelva. The first stop takes place at La Suelta, where pilgrims have lunch and feed and water their animals, which are just as excited as their owners to arrive in El Rocío. The path between sand, rosemary bushes, and pines drives pilgrims to the wood village of Bodegones, where they cheerfully stay overnight. Next day, the Brotherhood goes in pilgrimage with its Simpecado to Almonte after a Country Mass at 9.00 a.m. After a rest at the Holm-Oak Forest of Gato, the Brotherhood finally arrives in El Rocío at sunset while pilgrims cheer the White Dove and their city.
The Colombinas are more than a festival. They are part of Huelva’s identity, one of the features of this resourceful, open city which looks at its past with pride and at its future with hope. In 2012, the major festival of Huelva was celebrated at new fairgrounds which offers all visitors more comfortable, modern services. The Colombinas aspire to commemorate the departure of the three caravels for India but ended up discovering a new world for all the Humanity in 1492. Thus, the beginning of that odyssey is celebrated every 3 August – a commemorative date both for Spain and America – at this city which was the starting point and is the celebration place. So, the Colombinas become something greater than a mere festival – it is the commemoration of a crucial date for both the History of Spain and the World. This festival is held at practical, comfortable, and modern fairgrounds having three main areas. The Booth Area · The Concert Area, where important Spanish singers and musicians perform · The Amusement Park The Booth Area is the main area of the fairgrounds and is divided into streets named after important places of Huelva. The entrance to these booths is fully free, what proves Huelva’s people’s openness in receiving visitors. Concerts are also free for those who want to attend them. Finally, the Amusement Park – also divided into streets – includes both traditional and modern roundabouts and amusements. The greatest day of the Colombinas is 3 August. Nevertheless, the activities commemorating the departure of the caravels for the New World start at the end of July. That is why several nautical competitions, such as the Campeonato de Andalucía or the different modalities of the Trofeos Colombinos, take place one week before the festival strictly speaking. Lately, the gate of the fairgrounds and the whole place have been lit at the end of July. From that day on, the festival is inaugurated and we have six days of fun with music and dance shows, cultural activities, sports games, bullfights, and amusements all over the city in the daytime. The most multitudinous events take place in the night-time. Apart from the free-entrance booths where you can enjoy typical dishes and drinks and the amusements for adults and children, we should also remark the concerts which are performed by the estuary on an outdoor stage. These free-entrance concerts attract a good number of people as the artists performing in them are nationally well-known at national level and have different styles to fit everybody’s taste. Bullfights at the Bullring of La Merced, where the greatest bullfighting figures participate, must be also remarked. The Trofeo Colombino is one of the most important football tournaments in Spain during the preseason and is another attraction of this festival. The greatest teams in Spain and the world have attended this tournament since its creation. Besides, this year is a special year, as we will celebrate the promotion to the first division of the Recreativo de Huelva, the most ancient football team in Spain. All of this is just a small part of what you can enjoy in Huelva, which lives the Colombinas more and more intensely every year, between the end of July and the beginning of August.
Festival of the Virgin of La Cinta
One month after celebrating the Colombinas, Huelva pays tribute to the Virgin of La Cinta, its Patron Virgin. Every 8 September, Huelva commemorates the day of the Virgen Chiquita (‘Small Virgin’) in the surroundings of her chapel, located upon the Cabezo del Conquero and surrounded by the marshes. In the issue of September 1921 of the magazine Huelva y sus fiestas, educator Manuel Siurot says that “September is the month of Huelva par excellence. August is universally dedicated to Columbus. September is innermost, familial, Huelva-like... La Cinta! In fact, the Festival of La Cinta was always an authentic festival from Huelva which gave September its special feature in the past and still does today. In 1862, the City Council of Huelva officially introduced a popular festival within the religious traditions of the day, which was actually a way of continuing, improving, and enlarging the one which sailors and merchants had been celebrating since 1759 in the surroundings of the chapel. In accordance with the Royal Decree of 28 September 1863, the City Council agreed to settle a festival at this city during the 5, 6, and 7 September of every year”. Children undoubtedly enjoyed themselves with the roundabouts settled at the fairgrounds. In that time, the swings and the merry-go-round were the favourite ones among them. Eventually, more amusements were installed not only for children but also for grown-ups. Huelva’s typical gastronomy was also part of those festival nights, as there were stands selling doughnuts, punch, piñonate de Valverde (a dried fruit paste typical from the village of Valverde del Camino), and hazelnuts. Several competitions and games were carried out outside the fairgrounds by the estuary – greasy pole games, sailing competitions, and bullfights – with the arrival of the 20th century. Fireworks have been used since the festival was founded at the beginning of August 1863. The carving of the Virgin was made by Benito Hita del Castillo, whereas the wagon was forged by silversmith Jesús Domínguez from Seville. The celebration of the festival in honour of the Virgin of La Cinta starts at the end of August. The Patron Virgin of Huelva is traditionally moved from her chapel to the Cathedral to celebrate the novena in her honour. Lately, the moving has become a mass phenomenon both for the people of Huelva and for visitors. The course goes along the higher part of the city – the hills of El Conquero, an emblematic natural site with extremely beautiful landscapes. Nature and religion come together at an event which takes place in the middle of the night and ends up at sunrise on the hills of El Conquero. Once we are in the Cathedral, we celebrate some religious cults and masses in honour of the Virgin for a week before the procession in the afternoon of 8 September, when the festival activities start at the district of La Orden. There, music is played and people meet one another. The peak of the festival is the Patron Virgin’s traditional course along the streets of the city centre – it is known as the ‘Official Parade’ as the authorities of Huelva accompany her. Afterwards, the Virgin is moved back to her chapel while bystanders and devotees listen to the fandangos of Huelva at the Peña Flamenca of the district of Las Colonias and see the wagon being moved upon the Cuesta de La Cinta, by the Hermitage. The festival ends with fireworks after the Virgin arrives in her chapel.