While traveling through southern Andalucia, on the road from Sevilla, the region's capital, to the village of Casariche (about 130 kilometers away), I was reminded of earlier rural travelers I had heard about, who had never reached their destinations. They were victims of Bandoleros: armed men who would rob those passing through the southern mountain range of Sierra Morenain the 18th and 19th centuries. Literature and movies would later romanticize the Bandoleros- basing Don Quixote on them – and giving them a Robin Hood aura. All that seemingly remains from those earlier crime sprees is the dry desolate sierra, endlessly specked by olive trees. I fell in love with Spain’s landscape; its varied roughness and vegetation was a constant backdrop to my discovery of rural towns.
Today, Casariche is an easy day trip from Sevilla. I was struck by how its architecture curves with the landscape. Though it has a population of around 5,000, it is by no means a "country" town. Houses are attached to each other and snugly line the sidewalks. There are few lawns, but many courtyards or patios with pomegranate trees, Andalucian flowers and other lush vegetation. Bars and small restaurants line the main roads, and hotels and pensiones (like a B&B) provide places to stay.
Small towns like Casariche are known for their traditional Catholic processions, and I was fortunate to see one. Usually they take place during pre-Easter months, but I had arrived on the anniversary of Casariche's patron saint. Participants gathered in the main church before dusk and made their way slowly to the sound of drums and chants. People lined the inclined streets, waiting for a statue of Mary, carried by about a dozen volunteers. Carpets hanging from balconies swayed in the light breeze. They and the homes whose floors they will grace awaited Mary's blessing. The best time to experience the mysticism of a procession through the village streets is during the period of Lent leading up to Easter.
Participants wait during one of the many stops made during the procession. In the background, an illuminated Virgin waits.