Estepa is a municipality in the extreme south-east of the province of Sevilla, closely bordering the provinces of Malaga, Cordoba and Granada. In 2007, it's population was 12,397. Although technically a "town", in 1886, queen Maria Cristina honoured the town with the title of "City by Royal Disposition", a sign of its status within the region.
This beautiful town is famous for two very different reasons:
- It is renowned for it's production of "Polverones" and "Mantecados" which are sold and eaten across the region of Andalucia. The smell of these biscuits and sweets being made in the numerous cake factories across the town often fills the air and can be noted some distance away. An important agricultural activity with the town is Olive growing. About 9,500 ha of land within the municipality is planted to Olive and about 24 million kilos of Olive Oil are produced annually. Estepa has it's very own brand of Olive Oil known as "OleoEstepa" which is claimed to be one of the best available.
- Its other claim to fame is the rather dark mass suicide 2,200 years ago, when in 208 BCE Roman invaders discovered the entire population of what was then a small but important outpost of Carthage had torched their homes and killed themselves rather than be overrun by the Romans. The Romans re-populated the town and called it Ostipo. Later, Estepa, as it was re-named, was taken in the Reconquest by King Fernando III 'The Saint', in 1241. The town then became the subject of regular attacks from Granada, and did not fall to the Christians until 1492. Life stabilised in the town following the Conquest, Estepa settled into comfortable wealth in this prime agricultural region of Andalucía. This wealth made apparent by the number of fine mansions in the town centre. The town expanded, downhill from the castle and departed the protective bailey, leaving the San Cristobal hill and fortifications abandoned. Estepa's fortunes then took an unexpected turn in the early 19th century, whereby successive wars and economic downturn transformed Estepa into a haven for the bandoleros, or bandits, who haunted the mountains and often made outrageous forays into the towns and villages. These bandoleros were dealt with in brutal reprisals and although the town today is a wonderful blend of bustling local markets, cafes and bars combined with beautiful scenery, throughout the town you will see reminders of it's historic past.
Festivals or "ferias" as they are known are held regularly throughout the region. Below are a list of Estepa's unique ferias:
February 2nd - large bonfires are lit to celebrate the Candelaria and to warm people observing the night-long religious vigil.
Romeria de San José Obrero
May 1st - the town celebrates the local Romeria (procession) de San José Obrero, when townspeople in traditional wear walk to the nearby hermitage of Santa Ana.
3rd Sunday of every May - the neighbourhood known as the Octava (eighth) de los Remedios celebrates its own festival around calle Roya.
La Velá de Santa Ana
26th July (approximately) - La Velá (candle) de Santa Ana religious festival in the barrio, neighbourhood of La Coracha has been held since before the 18th century.
The Fiesta of Our Lady of La Asunción
August 15th - Estepa's main summer fair. Our Lady of Carmel sees a procession of people carrying torches and flares along calle La Puente and environs.
There are numerous national holiday days in Spain throughout the year, but perhaps the ones that you should be most aware of are:
Semana Santa (Holy Week) - is when we celebrate Easter and is one of the most important traditional events in Spain. It is celebrated in the week leading up to Easter. This week features the procession of "Pasos" (floats of lifelike wooden sculptures dipicting scenes of the events of the passion, or images of the Virgin Mary showing grief for the torture and killing of her Son). The processions are organized by "hermandades" and "cofradías" (religious brotherhoods). During the processions, members precede the "Pasos" dressed in penitential robes and hoods. They may also be accompanied by brass bands. The processions continue from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday morning. The climax of the week is the night of Holy Thursday when the most popular processions set out to arrive at the Cathedral on the dawn of Good Friday (known as the "Madrugá").
El Dia de Los Reyes (The Day of the Kings/Three Kings) - is celebrated on January 6th representing the arrival of the Three Kings twelve days after the birth of Jesus bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Therefore this is the day that that people give and reciecve gifts, whilst children in other countries await the arrival of Santa Claus, children in Spain await the arrival of the Three Kings. On January 5th most towns (including Estepa) hold "la cabalgata" which is a parade of floats which travel through the town, from which toys and candy are thrown out to the children in the crowds. After the parade, the children return home to prepare for the arrival of the Three Kings by placing their shoes on the windowsills and filling them with straw, carrots and barley for the donkey's of the Three Kings. The following morning the children awake early to open their presents and then spend the rest of the day with their family.
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