Under the late afternoon sun, thousands of residents filled the streets of Jaén, a city in the interior of Andalusia, to see "El Abuelo" "the grandfather"), a old statue of Christ carrying his cross, which had not been taken out for rogations asking for rain since March 1949. Faced with the historic drought that is hitting Spain, parishioners organized a procession on Monday May 1 to beg for the return of precipitation.
"We are in the grip of a persistent drought and this procession aims to ask the Lord to help us and save us", explained to AFP Ricardo Cobos, major brother of the brotherhood of "El Abuelo". "We depend a lot on olive trees and olive oil and it's an economic disaster when the land lacks water," he adds.
Spain, which exports a good part of its agricultural production to the rest of Europe, is suffering from a catastrophic drought which is worrying farmers and the authorities. According to Coag, the main farmers' union, 60% of Spanish farmland is currently "suffocated" by the lack of rainfall. And the country's reservoirs are only filled to 50.1% of their capacity, even 24.8% in the Guadalquivir basin in Andalusia.
Spain also experienced an exceptionally early heat wave last week, with temperatures above 37°C in places. The Spanish government last Tuesday asked the European Commission to activate the Common Agricultural Policy's "crisis reserve" to help its farmers. Alongside this demand, the Spanish government has announced a series of tax boosts for its farmers, including a 25% reduction in income tax, which should benefit 800,000 professionals.
In Jaén, we scan the sky. "I came here to see the Lord and I really believe that he is going to give us water," said Antonia Contreras, a housewife from a nearby town who is following the procession.