The English Connection of the Fiesta in El Cedro

The following is a lovely story from Willie in La Gomera which he posted on his blog

Chapel ‘Nuestra Señora de Lourdes’, El Cedro, La Gomera

At the northern flank of La Gomera’s national park and forest lies the mountain valley and tiny hamlet of El Cedro. It is surrounded by thick lush forest on three sides and to the north overlooks parts of the municipal area of Hermigua and the Atlantic with Tenerife in the background.

Every year since 1935 a fiesta is celebrated in the hamlet’s little chapel which is dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Lourdes’. The chapel is at the southern end of the townland’s scattered small farms, most of them now abandoned or converted to holiday cottages. The chapel is in the forested part of the area and a small stream that carries cool spring water all year flows around it a little below. The location is remote and can only be reached on foot. This only adds to it’s charm and often all you can hear when you rest at the small picnic area beside it is the gurgling stream and birdsong.

The chapel was inaugurated in 1935 having been erected through the initiative, efforts and donations by English lady Florence Stephen Parry who, having become a devout Catholic on La Gomera, realised the villagers’ plight of having to attend churches many miles away, not having their ‘own’ chapel.

‘Doña Florencia’ (left) at the inauguration, El Cedro 1935

She had left England after the first world war to forget its horrors and moved first to Gran Canaria where she had English friends. While staying there she met an Italian businessman who owned a fish cannery on La Gomera. He needed someone to educate and teach his children there and she moved to La Gomera to become employed by him. She became a well respected member of the local community on La Gomera, converted to Catholicism in 1924, and built ‘The House of Peace’ in Hermigua when she retired. ‘Doña Florencia’, as she became locally known, then focused all her energies on realising her dream of building a chapel dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Lourdes’ in the forest village of El Cedro. In the summer of 1935 the dream became reality with the inauguration of the little chapel, followed by a huge fiesta.

Fiesta El Cedro 1935

Florence Stephen Parry died in 1964 and a small plaque beside the entrance of the chapel asks visitors to say a prayer for her.

Since then every year on the last Sunday in August one of most important fiestas on La Gomera was celebrated there, with an emphasis on the folkloric and social aspects of a religious event. The format was changed after the tragic forest fire of 1984 when 20 men lost their lives a few miles away and it was realised that it was too dangerous to hold such a large congregation in the forest. Since then, as is the case this Sunday, there is a mass held in the chapel, with a picnic and then a procession accompanied by the typical ancient chants and percussion leads through the forest to the main part of the village where young and old will meet as they do since 1935.

Step Through the Looking Glass and read the  Red Queen Musings
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