The 20th edition of “Romaria a Cavalo” will be held from 20 April to 24 April, resuming a century-old tradition of the Alentejo. From Moita, in Setubal district, to Viana do Alentejo, in Évora district, the four-day journey is made by horse or carriage.
This tradition, which dates back to the Alentejo past, is a kind of holy pilgrimage that takes place every year to transport the image of “Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem”, patron saint of Moita, to the sanctuary of “Nossa Senhora dos Aires”, in Viana do Alentejo.
Although a beautiful four-day ceremony, this tradition was not always celebrated by the locals. After several years, it was only in 2001 that they decided to look back to their roots and take up this tradition, bringing it back to life.
According to their website, this is one of the biggest national horse events, celebrated on the fourth Sunday of April. In the origin of the Pilgrimage, the farmers of Moita made that same journey several years ago with their animals along dirt roads to be blessed and to ask for good harvests.
To explain the meaning of this term "Romaria a Cavalo", let's break it down: "Cavalo" means horse in English, and "Romaria" comes from romero, which means someone who travels to Rome.
In an interview with Lusa News Agency about the upcoming event, the mayor of Viana do Alentejo, Luís Miguel Duarte, said that currently there is more than a religious meaning behind it as the event is an opportunity to strengthen ties between friends and neighbours.
The pilgrimage "is also known for the companionship between the pilgrims and between the inhabitants of the villages they pass through," he said, adding that it is also key for boosting the economy as the event helps to increase the profits of local restaurants, hotels and local stores, which all see their income increase thanks to the Romaria a Cavalo.
These popular festivals are also important to engage with the locals of these hidden and almost forgotten villages of the Alentejo, such as Poceirão, Casebres, Alcáçovas and São Brás do Regedouro. Furthermore, on 23 April, the fourth day of the pilgrimage, there will be a lunch stop in São Brás do Regedouro, which will be a moment of social interaction.
Despite the small number of inhabitants in these villages, there are still those who want to preserve these kind of traditions. According to the mayor, the event which usually gathers hundreds of participants from all over the country and even from abroad, is expecting even greater participation this year.
"I thought that people would still be afraid to go out, because of the pandemic, but I realised that there are even more people who say they are going to take part," said the mayor.
According to him, "the need and the will of people to go out in the street" can therefore lead to "an even greater participation" in an event which, in the past, "has already reached 500 participants" in a single edition, which is a lot for these tiny villages.
If you would like to know further details about the event, please follow Romaria a Cavalo on social media at https://www.facebook.com/RomariaACavaloMoitaVianaDoAlentejo/ and https://www.youtube.com/user/vianaconcelho
Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252