Romeiros of Sao Miguel: A Pilgrimage of Faith
The tradition of the march of the Romeiros dates back to the 16th century in the Azores and has been a tradition that has been followed by faithful followers every year for centuries on the island of Sao Miguel. It began when a massive earthquake took place in the 16th century, causing landslides and much human loss and devastation to the local people. It was a pilgrimage that originated from the people’s need to respect and homage to the Virgin Mary. After the island was struck with this deadly earthquake, the locals then perceived it to be divine punishment for their human actions. They began to pray in large groups walking every corner of the island, stopping off in local parishes to rest and eat while begging for forgiveness for their sins while giving thanks for the blessings in their lives. It starts from their local parish and moves clockwise for eight days, which occurs from the end of February until early March here in Sao Miguel. At this time, you need to be extra cautious when driving as you will see the streets filled with the faithful marchers during the daytime hours. The pilgrimage is not for the faint of heart and is truly a test of strength and faith with the countless hills to deep valleys regarding much patience and strength. The men and boys carry a large homemade wooden stick and wear traditional clothes, most with traditional colorful scarves over their shoulders, with all of them carrying or wearing their rosaries. A beautiful sight to see, and very rare to see young boys are walking with their elderly grandfathers and family members all marching and praying for hope and better lives for them and their fellow citizens. The pilgrimage takes eight days, with all the local parishes of the island taking place annually and going in clockwise directions. Each group stops off at various homes and churches of good-hearted local people who give them a place to stay or camp with some food and drink. At the same time, they rest for the next lap of their journey around the island. It is uncommon to meet a male in the Azores who has not participated in this religious pilgrimage at some point in their lives since it is a tradition with the strongest and deepest roots on the island for centuries. Many immigrants that moved away as children from Sao Miguel often make a point of returning to make the pilgrimage once in their lifetime. It is one of the most vital traditions on the island and provides excellent insight into the local people’s values.