Every village in Spain has a patron saint. They are put in the limelight and honored on their name day. Then it is Fiesta time, with a Romería, Flamenco, music and moving processions. In our town, Vejer de la Frontera, we celebrate ‘La Velada’ in honour of our Patron Saint in August for two weeks in a row. This year the celebrations are all different. In my video below I take you to our village this week and our rooftop terrace to witness the processions of last year.
Nuestra Señora de la Oliva, the patron saint of Vejer
La Patrona, the patron saint of Vejer is Nuestra Señora de la Oliva. Isn’t she just is beautiful?
Her sanctuary, Santuario de la Oliva, at the foot of the mountain
Throughout the year La Oliva resides in a small Ermita, el Santuario de la Oliva, at the foot of the hill on which Vejer is built. This sanctuary has its origins in the 14th century, built after the “Reconquista”, the conquest of this region from the Moors. At that time the first wooden statue of “La Virgen” was crafted. In 1596, the young sculptor Martín Alonso de Mesa from Seville, at the age of 23, was commissioned to create the current Renaissance statue. The virgin, with baby Jesus on her arm. He earned 130 gold ducats with it.
The Romería of Vejer de la Frontera
Every year on May 7 there is a pilgrimage in which a small statue of La Oliva is brought from the Church of San Miguel in town to the Santuario below and there are all kinds of festivities. But in August she is here, in the village for two weeks. On August 11th is the Romería where hundreds of people follow the procession where La Oliva is carried to the village via the narrow, winding, and steep dirt track. In the blazing sun. And there she thrones her altar, in the Divino Salvador church. This two-week celebration, from August 10 to 24, is called “La Velada”.
Celebrations and processions during “La Velada” in Vejer
Vejer is a town of pilgrimage during “La Velada”. People come from far and wide to pay tribute to “La Virgen” in their hometown. She lends her ear to wishes and prayers and comforts the sick and unfortunate. There are daily masses, commemorations, and the children that are born in that year are baptized. There are large gatherings during the lengthy processions through the village. These are moving event where emotions can run high, enhanced by the beautiful music of the “banda”, the orchestra. “Te quiero Oliva!”
Flamenco, Feria and fun fair in Vejer
In August, the whole village celebrates enthusiastically, with flamenco performances every night in the Plaza de España – Plaza de Pescaitos in the vernacular – with music until morning. There is a big funfair in the car park at the beginning of the village and the old center is mostly car-free. During the day people go to the beach but around 8 pm the whole village comes to life and those who love their peace and silence better not live in the old center as we do. Consequently, we usually go on holiday in August…
Holidays and celebrations in Andalusia
But this year there are no processions. You know why. No processions during Semana Santa, nor during “La Velada”. But of course, La Oliva is here! She is at church and you can go greet her. Not everybody at once, and do disinfect your hands properly. And of course, it is busier now in Vejer than earlier this year. The Spaniards all take a two-week holiday in August and have stayed in their own country en masse this year. The holiday homes and villas on the coast are fully booked and so are the terraces of the restaurant here in the village. Although we must keep ample social distance. And the latter is quite difficult for the Spaniards because they like to be close together in large groups. “The more the merrier” is the motto.
As a result, there is also a lot of police on the street to enforce the measures. But that will not spoil the fun!
Exhibition “Oliva Coronada” in Vejer de la Frontera
So this year there are no processions. But you can make your own, individual pilgrimage through Vejer these two weeks because the ayuntamiento has created something very beautiful: the exhibition ‘Oliva Coronada’ – (And no, that name has nothing to do with the virus – Corona means’ crown ‘). Since last week there’s an exhibition of images and installations through the narrow streets of our white mountain village. The route is marked by banners on the houses, green with a golden crown, including on our own house! There are moving poems and texts on the white walls of monumental buildings. There are lovely photos of La Oliva and the processions, huge black and white images from 1927, and more recent photos. It is really special to walk through the village now. It is festive and modest at the same time.
I think it is impressive. I made a short impression of the exhibition and also of the processions of recent years from our terrace:
A walk through Vejer de la Frontera
Should you want to do a tour through Vejer, in my brand new ebook “Walking in Cádiz” I will take you to Vejer, but also to the city Cádiz and the amazing natural parks of this wonderful region in the south of Spain!