Discovering Spain and its quirky traditions

El Mariquelo scales the cathedral in Salamanca Credit: El Mariquelo Facebook

The Great Lisbon earthquake occurred in 1755 and the tremor was felt in the city of Salamanca across the border in Spain.

Fear of the Apocalypse

At the time, crowds rushed to the cathedral convinced that this was the start of the Apocalypse and the end of the world.

In the event, no-one was injured although the tower of the cathedral started to lean slightly.

The council that managed the cathedral declared that from then on, once a year, someone should climb to the top of the cathedral to ring the bells in thanksgiving to God for this miraculous event.

A family which lived inside the cathedral, Los Mariquelos were tasked with this duty which they diligently undertook for more than two centuries, before the last member of the family died in 1976.

A new hero emerged in 1985

No-one stepped into the breach until 1985 when Ángel Rufino de Haro decided to take up the tradition again and inherited the name of El Mariquelo and from then on he has taken on the role.

Dressed as a charro (a Mexican style cowboy) he climbs the 110 metre tall tower on October 31 to play a charrada   (a country dance) on his bagpipes and tambourine, thanking god and praying for peace and good causes.

El Mariquelo praying from the clock tower
Credit: El Mariquelo Facebook

As he grows older, so El Mariquelo has to ensure that he remains fit and capable of making what is potentially a dangerous climb but his dedication to keeping this tradition alive ensures that there is always a large group of visitors applauding his strenuous efforts.

Unusual traditions across Spain

This is just one of many interesting, fun and sometimes completely bizarre traditions that are followed in different towns and villages across Spain.

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Written by

John Smith

Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica. Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene. Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development. Share your story with us by emailing, by calling +34 951 38 61 61 or by messaging our Facebook page