Coín is getting ready to celebrate its annual pilgrimage to the shrine of the Virgen de la Fuensanta. A popular tradition where religious devotion is mixed with joyous celebration, the romería's origins are based on a legend concerning the apparition of the Virgin Mary that dates back to 1487.
The journey to the sanctuary of the Virgin, also the town's patron, begins at 10am on Saturday 9 June, when around 50 Romany style caravans adorned with sprays of flowers and religious emblems will embark on the five-kilometre journey. Many of the carts are pulled by oxen, donkeys and horses, and the scene is a reminder of the travelling gypsy caravans that once roamed Andalucía.
Pilgrims dressed in traditional attire sing and dance to sevillanas and light flamenco as the procession trundles through the countryside. One of the most picturesque parts of the journey takes place at the River Pereilas, when the pilgrims and their animals are rested and watered at the riverside. It was once traditional to baptise anyone who was making their first pilgrimage in this river as it was believed that they would then be blessed by the Virgin. The celebrations really get going once everyone has arrived at the small white hermitage nestled among the olive and orange groves.
A constant flow of people will pass through the chapel to show their devotion to the iconic image, but once the religious duties have been fulfilled, it is time for the fiesta.
The celebrations continue well into the dark hours and are only interrupted by the mass held in honour of the Virgin. The sacred image is then hoisted onto the shoulders of the pilgrims, who then embark on a silent procession.
A competition to decide the most beautifully decorated wagon is held on Sunday morning and the winner will have the honour of escorting the Virgin back to the San Juan Bautista church in Coín.