The romeir­os (pil­grims) of Sao Miguel – tra­di­tion, belief and emo­tions,

I have been hav­ing mixed feel­ings about the Azores and the Azorean people lately. Some­times they are won­der­fully kind and friendly, but at times they are stan­doff­ish and dis­tant to “strangers”. There is a great deal of uncer­tainty and also a quote from the fam­ous Hun­gari­an poet Sandor Petofi comes to mind from his poem “Pato Pal Ur” (Mr. Pal Pato) which goes “Ej, raer­unk arra meg” which trans­lates into “eh, we’ll do it anoth­er time”.  In some regards I find this a nice philo­sophy: even though things gen­er­ally take longer to accom­plish, the people of the Azores are much less wor­ried and stressed out about things than people liv­ing in big and bust­ling cit­ies. Whenev­er I am at the Azores I tend to adopt this life­style and when I am back to Hun­gary I real­ise how dif­fi­cult it is to read­just myself to the busy city life.

How­ever, yes­ter­day I had an exper­i­ence that affected me very deeply and made my already very pos­it­ive impres­sion about the Azorean people even more pro­found. I have exper­i­enced the deep spir­itu­al­ity of the Azorean people, their endur­ing faith, their love towards each oth­er, and the close­ness of their fam­ily ties through a few acts and spe­cial objects.

There is a tra­di­tion­al pil­grim­age  on Sao Miguel island which dates back to the 16th cen­tury, to 1522 when a very power­ful earth­quake and con­sec­ut­ive seis­mic activ­it­ies shattered the city of Vila Franca do Campo. The first pil­grims star­ted off after the earth­quake to ask for God’s pro­tec­tion against fur­ther nat­ur­al dis­asters and to atone for their own and every oth­er inhabitant’s sins. 

Ever since every year for a week dur­ing the months of Feb­ru­ary and March, the 10 to 50 year old male pop­u­la­tion of Sao Miguel is doing a clock­wise pil­grim­age around the island in groups of 30 to 200. They are vis­it­ing over 100 churches and chapels on their way, whilst pray­ing and singing reli­gious songs. Their dress code is strictly defined and so is the role of every indi­vidu­al in the group. The group has of course a lead­er, but there are sev­er­al oth­er offices, too. They are all wear­ing a checkered shawl on their backs, a col­our­ful scarf and a ros­ary around their neck, whilst hold­ing a spe­cial walk­ing cane which they always put down on the ground before enter­ing a church or a chapel.

The young­er pil­grims are pray­ing for bet­ter edu­ca­tion and eco­nomy, and gen­er­ally for the bet­ter­ment of the Azores, and Por­tugal. 

The pil­grim­age takes one week, dur­ing which the men are walk­ing from dawn till dusk, with no food, only to retire in the even­ings into the houses of loc­al hosts, where they are giv­en meat and mead, and a place to sleep. There are very strict rules about qual­i­fy­ing to take part in the pil­grim­age: the pil­grim needs to be in a great med­ic­al con­di­tion and has to lead a Godly life.

Yes­ter­day as we were vis­it­ing Pon­ta Garça we have heard loud singing from a church nearby (I did not know about this cus­tom before), so we just sat down in front of the church to wait and see what hap­pens. And in a little while the Romeir­os appeared in the door and the pil­grims went over to a house close by. We have seen that every­one is greet­ing the pil­grims like they were fam­ily mem­bers so I asked a very kind loc­al girl to tell me what is hap­pen­ing inside. She told me that this is the fam­ily day of the pil­grim­age, when the fam­ily mem­bers of the pil­grims are pre­par­ing a huge meal to be enjoyed togeth­er.  Then she pro­ceeded to invite us over to their table, but the atmo­sphere was so famili­al and intim­ate, I could feel the love and caring in the air, that I politely declined. I thought of my par­ents, whom I love very much. So finally I asked the broth­er of the girl, who was one of the pil­grims, if I can take a pho­to­graph. I think it turned out beau­ti­fully. Hereby I would like to thank the pil­grims and their fam­il­ies for their lovely wel­come, and for the love they made me feel – which I still feel writ­ing these lines.

Anoth­er thing what happened on the same day in Vila Franca do Campo, dur­ing our excur­sion. We were walk­ing in the port as we noticed a ship which had the face of Jesus painted on its bow. And when we looked at it his pic­ture it some­how reminded us of hope, and help­ful­ness, and love. It made me real­ise even bet­ter how deeply reli­gion shapes and char­ac­ter­ises this island.

For the latest news fol­low us on the Azori Éden Face­book page.  For more inspir­a­tion and beau­ti­ful pho­tos check out the Edenazores Ins­tagram, and for com­pre­hens­ive posts of course the www​.edenazores​.com blog.

For this art­icle I used the inform­a­tion from: https://​www​.vis​it​mai​azores​.com/​r​o​m​a​ria
Pho­tos: Edenazores

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