Pilgrimage of the Virgen de los Volcanes: one of the most fervent and popular pilgrimages in the Canary Islands
Every year, the walk to the Ermita de Los Dolores, where the Señora de los Volcanes is honoured, is a community rite of festivity in Lanzarote.
“How kind Lanzarote is. There is none among the seven islands for which I feel more affection“, wrote the British traveller Olivia Stone, who in 1884 visited a land that was “depopulated and destitute” due to volcanic activity. Two centuries later, the landscape still retains the evidence of the eruptions that occurred, the first between 1730 and 1736, the longest on record on Earth to date, and the second in 1824. The island hospitality that so impressed the explorer also remains intact.
Image: Andreas Weibel
This September Lanzarote has a gift for all those who wish to experience the feeling of being a traveller who blends in with the place he or she is exploring: the celebration of the pilgrimage of Los Dolores, the festivity of the island’s patron saint. In this annual ritual, which in 2022 will be celebrated on 10th September, the islanders thank their patron saint for the miracle of the end of the eruptions of Timanfaya, just as their ancestors have done for centuries.
This 10th September, why not join one of the groups of pilgrims that leave from the Casa-Museo del Campesino (San Bartolomé) to travel to the Ermita de Mancha Blanca (Tinajo) and share with them stories, landscapes and enyesques (tasty snacks of local products)? Above all, you’ll be sharing a path of memories to the place where the rivers of lava once stopped to allow the miracle of life to resume.
Image: Andreas Weibel
Sombrera, enyesque and parranda
Walkers and visitors join the pilgrimage from all over the island and other parts of the archipelago, respectfully wearing traditional dress in a festive and emblematic manifestation of Canarian culture.
Why not join one of the groups of pilgrims leaving from the Casa-Museo del Campesino (San Bartolomé) early in the morning? It won’t be difficult to fit in because the spirit is so festive and generous and you’ll soon feel like one of the pilgrims, sampling the potatoes, sweet potatoes and gofio. Together we’ll tune our voices and sing, before setting off from the foot of the Monument to Fertility, a sculpture by César Manrique which was erected in 1969 as a symbol honouring the fertility of the rural lands of Lanzarote and paying homage to the farmer, making clear the appreciation the artist had for farmers.
On the way, you could try a ‘buchito’ (sip) of wine from La Geria, which one of your new friends will probably have produced on his own finca. The malvasia, diego or listán grapes will open up your senses and you’ll be setting off on your way with the joy of those who feel welcome.
Volcanic and jable geography
Shortly after, there’ll be a stop in the small village of Mozaga, an agricultural and wine-growing town of just over 300 inhabitants that has changed its appearance and location twice in its history, once during the eruptions of Timanfaya in 1730 and again, in the 19th century, due to the constant jable storms.
The legend of the Indiano
Further on you’ll pass the Peñón del Indiano, (Teguise). This is a rock about seven metres high, between the Tamia Mountains and La Meseta, which is striking and stands out due to the flatness of the terrain. It owes its name to the legend of Marcial, a Lanzarote native who made his fortune in Cuba and returned to the island in 1896 with, supposedly, the money he stole from a rich young woman from the Pearl of the Antilles with which he acquired the magnificent property. As you admire the stately cortijo that the Indiano built on his Peñón and breathe in the atmosphere, you may find yourself wanting to believe that the legend is true.
The time has come to make a stop. You’ve reached the village of La Vegueta in the municipality of Tinajo. Before you, regal and haughty, the volcano can be seen rising from every corner. The pilgrims take out their timples (traditional guitars) and wineskins.
Everyone’s bags contain cheese, truchas (sweet pasties) or berrendos (wheat gofio kneaded with bits of cheese), and other traditional products. During the break, your walking companions tell stories about the odyssey that the peasants had to go through to master the volcanic nature of the land. You could stay a little longer enjoying the surroundings and the lively conversation, but it’s time to go on. The walk continues through the large artificial sandy fields, planted with vines, onions, potatoes, as well as various vegetables.
Ermita de Mancha Blanca
Before you know it, you’ve arrived at Mancha Blanca, which lives up to its name – a white area of land surrounded by desolate black, where the lava stopped, where the miracle took place. You can hear the parrandas, the bustle of the crowd, the carts with the offerings to the Virgin.
You can visit the stalls of the island’s craft fair, a delightful market where you can learn more about the history of Lanzarote. Maybe you’ll fall in love with a hat made of palm leaves, a handkerchief dyed with cochineal, a rosette lace tablecloth or an earthenware vase.
It’s time to look around and smile at your Lanzarote friends with whom you made the journey and learn the words so you can sing along with them: Campesina, campesina, no te quites la sombrera porque el sol de Lanzarote pone tu cara morena. (Farmer girl, farmer girl, don’t take off your hat because Lanzarote’s sun will turn your face brown).