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Nerja celebrates the Virgen del Carmen
The evening of July 16th is set aside each year for the procession of the Virgen del Carmen. This fiesta is common throughout the coastal communities of Spain, with celebrations in Nerja, Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife and lots of other coastal communities in Andalucia, Murcia, Valencia and Catalonia.
In Nerja this festival will generally take place over three evenings with an open to all party on the evening of the 17th and the more formal procession on the 16th. Local people visit the church of El Salvador on the evening of the 15th to make offerings to the Virgin of prayers and flowers with the Peña Nerjeña choir accompanying, beginning at 7:30pm.
The following day (16th July) comes the procession of the Virgin through the streets. This begins with a service at the church of El Salvador on the Balcon de Europa at 6pm from where the procession starts an hour later and goes on to La Torrecilla. The ephigy of the Virgin is decorated with an assortment of flowers and escorted by local people dressed with a nautical theme reflecting the roots of this tradition. Upon reaching the beach, assuming the sea is sufficiently calm, the Virgin is loaded onto a flower adorned boat and escorted by a flotilla of vessels along the coast, eventually coming back to La Calahonda beach where it's brought ashore and returned to El Salvador church with the event being finished off by a fireworks display.
The “Moraga” (an open air party with music and food) traditionally takes place on the evening of the 15th but is sometimes moved to the 17th depending on which day the pocession falls. From around ten o'clock at the Plaza de los Cangrejos found on the eastern end of La Torrecilla beach you’ll find a large cooking fire and the smell of sizzling sardines wafting through the air. The food is free and drinks are just €1.50. This party will easily be going on long into the night with all ages and nationalities attending and enjoying the atmosphere and music.
More about the Virgen del Carmen
In Malaga the virgin is carried in a procession through the streets on the 16th and again on the following Sunday although this is not a common tradition everywhere and each town, village and community has their own little tweak to the standard festival of the Virgen del Carmen.
The Virgen del Carmen, also know as “La Reina de los Mares” (Queen of the Seas), is the patron saint of mariners and fishermen and holds a revered place in the hearts of coastal communities throughout Spain, indeed the nearby towns of Rincon de la Victoria and La Cala have taken her to be their patron saint. Malaga city has also, since 1981, added their own extension with Scuba divers placing an image of the Virgin on the sea bed and paying their own respects to their underwater protector.
The roots of this incarnation of the Virgin Mary come from the old testament when the ageing prophet Elias became a hermit in a cave on Mount Carmelo. Hundreds of years later, pilgrims following in the footsteps of the prophet called upon the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmelo for protection during their journey which later led to the Virgen del Carmen and the festival that we enjoy today.