Spain’s L’ESPUNYOLA (AP) — Josep Altarriba, a Spanish farmer, can’t recall a period when there was such a severe drought in Catalonia as he surveys his parched crops. He claims there is minimal hope of rescuing the harvest if it doesn’t rain in the following two weeks.
What is attainable? The L’Espunyola mountain people believe that divine intervention is the solution.
A special Mass and procession to pray to Our Lady of the Torrents, a local virgin connected with rains, were revived on Sunday by around 250 locals.
Worshippers removed the Lady of the Torrents statue from her prominent position inside the stone church under partly bright sky. She then was
to be carried throughout the hamlet by the bishop and parishioners while nestling atop a wooden litter loaded with green branches.
The Associated Press was told by Bishop Francesc Conesa that “it’s not a magic trick; it is an act of trust.”
Spain’s meteorological office said this month that the country has been experiencing a long-term drought for the past three years due to extremely low rainfall and high temperatures. Spain saw its warmest and sixth-driest year since records began in 1961 last year.
One of the worst-affected areas is Catalonia, which is located in the northeastern part of the country. The main sources of income for the 260 residents of L’Espunyola, which is located an hour and a half north of Barcelona, are agriculture and agrotourism.
Altarriba, the farmer, stated after Mass, “If it doesn’t rain within two weeks, it’s really impossible to say what may happen.”
Eduard Perarnau, a local councillor and fireman, described the special Mass as a last resort. The government has imposed water consumption restrictions and has urged farmers to irrigate their crops and trees as little as possible.
The area’s three reservoirs are all operating at less than a third of their potential. The adjoining La Baells reservoir is just 25% full, and in some areas there is hardly enough water to cut through the silt layers that were once submerged.
According to local media, the community last prayed and sang songs to Our Lady of the Torrents in 2008. And it worked, according to locals, because rain fell.
The bishop, however, does not assure success this year.
Conesa remarked, “We have prayed with faith, and many have come and prayed with confidence. “Whatever suited us, the Lord will grant to us.”
AP This report was written in Madrid by Raquel Redondo.