Estepona, like most towns in Spain, has a patron saint and the town takes the opportunity to have a fiesta to honour that saint. As the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro Labrador is recognised in many of Andalucia’s agricultural towns and villages including Periana, Nerja, Alhaurín el Grande, Trapiche, Ardales, Villanueva del Trabuco, Churriana, and Estepona in Malaga province, Ventas de Huelma in Granada, and others.
San Isidro Labrador was born in Madrid around 1070 and lived until 1130. His working life was spent on the estate of a landowner, Juan de Vargas. He was apparently a devout man who shared everything he had with the poor, even his meals. He must have driven his wife, Maria, to distraction since he insisted she keep a stew pot boiling all day to feed the hungry peasants he brought home. It is said that one day he turned up with a bit of a crowd and the stew pot ran out before all had been served. Isidro bade his wife take another look in the pot and low and behold, it was full again. Altogether there are 438 miracles attributed to him.
Isidro was beatified in 1619 by Pope Paul V and canonized three years later by Pope Gregory XV. His remains, together with those of his long-suffering wife, now lie in the San Isidro Church in Madrid. The sepulchre has nine locks and only the monarch has a master key. Only the Archbishop of Madrid can open the tomb and that only with the authorization of the monarch. It was last opened in 1985.
In Estepona, festivities start with a Romeria a few days before the 15th May. The romeria starts at 9am at the Church of San Jose and the floats, carriages, and retinue parade to the Parque ‘San Isidro Labrador’ (Pedregales). This is a family day where you can expect to sample the local tomato soup, sopa campera, choritzos, morcillas and sangria. There are wine tasting competitions, cattle shows, shooting competitions, horse and rider exhibitions and even axe handling contests. The idea is to highlight the skills of local people engaged in the traditional agricultural industries. The day ends with a firework display.
The festival continues each day with various activities around the town and culminates with a procession of tractors, horses and floats, all bedecked with greenery starting around 6pm on the 15th May. The procession starts at the church of San Jose and tours the centre of town. Prizes are awarded for the best float.
The events and start days vary from town to town so the best way to find out what is going on is to visit the local tourist information office at the beginning of May.
Nick has lived and worked in Andalucia for over 20 years. He and his partner, Julie Evans, have travelled extensively and dug deep into the history and culture, producing authoritative articles on all aspects of the region. Nick has written four books about Andalucia and writes articles for other websites and blogs.
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