THE “ERREBOMBILLOS”

On the first Sunday in October a somewhat unusual festivity

takes place in Elorrio under the name of Errebonbilloak.

In 1571 the Christian fleet defeated the Turks at the battle of Lepanto, thus cutting short the expansion of Islam across the western Mediterranean. It is said that some young men from Elorrio took part in the battle, and that when they returned home they were so overjoyed at the first sight of their hometown from the nearby mountain pass of Kanpazar that they could not resist announcing their arrival by firing their guns into the air.

Their return coincided with the procession of Our Lady of the Rosary, and as a result it became traditional in the town to fire guns into the air as the figure of the Virgin Mary passed. On the first Sunday in October every year the “Errebombillos” parade through the streets of Elorrio in a procession recalling the homecoming of these local combatants in the battle of Lepanto.

This is a peculiar case within the tradition of military parades in the Basque Country: it involves a single company of between 12 and 14 young people known as the “Errebombillos” who march under the orders of a captain. They wear frock coats, great white cravats and tricorn hats. Records show that the parade has been taking place at least since 1575, four years after the battle of Lepanto, but there is no reason to believe that there were not already military parades through the streets of the town before that date.

The parade starts early, at 6 AM. The “Errebombillos” march behind a band of txistulari flute and drum players, under the orders of their captain. On their way through the streets of Elorrio they stop off at specific points to fire their guns into the air. The only stopping point that varies is outside the home of the Mayor.

 

The procession of Our Lady of the Rosary takes place in the afternoon of the same day. The “Errebombillos” wait for the figure of the Virgin Mary to pass and welcome it with further shots into the air. After the procession everyone heads for the main square, where a traditional Basque dance known as the soka-dantza (rope dance) is performed, among others, marking the conclusion of the festivities.

1928 is the only year in the history of the festivities in which the company was not formed by local people: the relevant guild records state that “the festivity of the Errebombillo was performed by young outsiders who were summering in the town”.

It is an original, curious festivity as regards the small scale of the parade and the costumes worn. It is a mixture of religious elements such as the procession of Our Lady of the Rosary with civil elements such as the military parade. The tradition has survived for more than four centuries, and is still repeated without fail on the first Sunday of every October.

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