The fiesta of the Virgin of Remedies
The province of Malaga has plenty to offer to the lovers of tradition and folklore, and over the coming months, numerous strange rituals and customs will fill the streets and plazas of the villages and towns that surround the capital of the Costa del Sol.
One of these events can be enjoyed in Cártama next weekend, when the populace comes together to celebrate the town’s patron saint, La Virgen de los Remedios.
This mysterious image of the Madonna was once known as the Virgin of the Mountains, a name derived from an old legend concerning her discovery.
The virgin is carried from her small sanctuary to the church of San Pedro, where she will remain until the first Sunday of June.
Her descent into the town marks the start of the town’s annual feria and the solemn procession will be assisted by many devotees from the town, as well as hundreds of pilgrims who arrive from all over Andalucía.
The pilgrimage and ensuing feria starts with a celebration of a mass that commemorates the miracle of the Virgin healing those affected by an epidemic of plague in 1579.
The entire population of the town is said to have gone to the sanctuary in order to pray for her protection and legend states that, because of their plea, the number of people infected by the plague began to drop, the sick were cured, and within one week, the disease no longer prevailed in Cártama.
It is for this reason that the ‘Virgin of the Mountains’ became known as La Virgen de los Remedios, the Virgin of Remedies.
Much has been written regarding the appearance of the image and yet the most popular explanation is based on an ancient belief with origins that can be dated to around 1485; the year in which Muslim Cártama fell to the Catholic armies.
This legend involves a humble shepherd who stumbled across a small statue that lay hidden among a clump of sprouting asparagus. The shepherd had led his herd along this path for many years and had never noticed the figurine before, and so, delighted with his find, he placed the figurine in his knapsack and set about his journey home.
He had intended to give the small statue to his daughter, but once he got home, he discovered that the knapsack was empty.
The shepherd could barely sleep that night, for he wondered what could have happened to the statue, and so at sunrise, he set off along the path that he had taken the previous night.
He searched along the crags and bushes, but he found nothing until he arrived at the spot where he had discovered the statue the previous day and, to his surprise, the image stood upright among the lush stalks of asparagus.
The shepherd took the figurine and placed it in his knapsack, this time tying the top securely with string before embarking on his journey, but when he arrived home, to his amazement, the knapsack was empty.
The legend states that this occurred on numerous occasions, and so the confused shepherd decided to seek the advice of the local priest and his associates.
The clergy passed around the story, eager to find a reasonable explanation, but they could arrive at no plausible answer, until one of them eventually declared what they had all been thinking. This was a miracle, a message from God, and so they decided to erect a shrine in the very spot where the shepherd had discovered the figurine.
The sanctuary that houses the virgin is located on the summit of a hill called the Mount of the Virgin, which provides one of the best panoramic views of the Guadalhorce valley.
The current sanctuary was built in the eighteenth century, which is, according to tradition, the spot where the virgin first appeared back in the fifteenth century.
The Fiesta de la Virgen de los Remedios was declared a festival of National Tourist Interest in 2002.
Coinciding with this popular celebration is the Feria del Ganado, livestock fair, an event of great historical tradition that has its origins the sixteenth century. This is a social event of special importance for farmers and livestock traders, whose deals are secured with a simple handshake and a gentleman’s agreement.source surinenglish