In addition to its great wealth, traditions and celebrations, the island of La Gomera hosts several legends. The celebration of 'La Virgen Embarcada' stands out from the rest, where the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of the island, is celebrated. Every 5 years, the Virgin of Guadalupe also known as 'La Virgen Morenita de la Gomera' is taken to a small tour on the sea from Puntallana to San Sebastian.
The traditional story tells that a Spanish ship, which travelled to the New World, passed nearby the island of La Gomera, and its crew saw a bright light coming out of a cave. Curious, they arrived at the place and found a small image of the Virgin, which they took to the boat.
Immediately after, they sailed back again. However, they later realized that regardless of how much they tried to move forward, they could not move beyond the coast of the island. They blamed that event on the image they had found, and decided to return it to the port of San Sebastian and tell people about the event, broadcasting the news all over the neighbourhood.
Attracted by their curiosity and surprised about the sailors’ story, people went to Puntallana to see with their own eyes the described image of the Virgin, and they began to venerate her in a building that was specially made for her.
The celebration takes place on the first Monday, after the first Saturday of October, which will be on October 8 of this year. Fishermen of the island decorate their boats carrying and escorting the image of the Virgin through a tour on the sea,that goes from the Ermita of Puntallana to the beach of San Sebastianwhere the heart of the local population receives it with faith, accompanied by drums and local music.
It is overwhelming to listen to the elderly talking about how celebrations were like when there were no streets or telephones, and the only way to communicate was through the traditional whistle.
Inhabitants of La Gomera kept themselves in procession to Puntallana on the eve of the patron saint, and streets were filled with noises of steps from the crowds, and the traditional whistle that served to communicate and meet during the procession. They used to meet on the main street at Epina which at that time was known as Los Bailadores, where they used to celebrate the drumming dance while waiting for the remaining walkers to join them.
Perhaps the communication media people use and the way they used to arrive at Puntallana to receive our patroness have changed accordingly to the new times, but the passion, faith and illusion with which people of the island receive our patroness have not changed at all.
The celebrations extend until December, when the image returns to Ermita of Puntallana after having crossed all municipalities of the island. Then, people will have to wait until the next procession… in 5 years.