During the rally, you will find many groups of men (romeiros) pilgrimaging and praying, on foot, through the roads of the island of Sao Miguel. This is a centuries-old tradition, which results from the deeply rooted faith of the Azorean population and from the need to ask for divine protection, due to natural phenomena, such as seismic crisis, which at the time, were very frequent and violent.
These pilgrimages are one of the main popular religious demonstrations of the island and can only be done by men. In the last few years, several women pilgrimages have appeared with the duration of one to three days. While on the road, these pilgrim groups sleep at private houses or church houses and start their daily journey before dawn. They usually arrive to parishes and towns right after sunset.
It is estimated that Lent pilgrimages will be constituted by a total of 2,500 men who will walk for many kilometres, during a week. They carry a shawl, a headscarf, a bag with food, a staff and a rosary, and while walking they chant and pray. They are well-organised and must follow a
pre-determined route, always with the sea on their left, while going by the largest possible number of churches and chapels of Sao Miguel.
This year, we will have 55 groups of pilgrims going around the island, two of which from Canada. The average number of men per group is of 50 men. The first groups went on the road on the first weekend after Ash Wednesday (February 14) and the last will arrive to their parishes on Holy Thursday (March 29).
The Azores Airlines Rallye organisation warns all those who, during the rally, will go on the road to follow the biggest Azorean sports event, to moderate their speed when going to the different special stages, as they may encounter, around any curve of the road, these groups of men who in a multi-century tradition pray and demonstrate their faith.
Photo credits: Eduardo Saul Silva