Romeiros of Toronto
Founded by Francisco Rodrigues and António Oliveira in 1982
Life is Hard. I do the romaria to get more strength, more peace. Not just for me but for everyone in the world – Lúcia Serra.
The Associação de Romeiros was founded by the Azorean immigrant Francisco Rodrigues in the image of the Catholic pilgrimage that happens every year in São Miguel island on Good Friday. In Toronto, the pilgrimage visits eight churches in West downtown neighbourhoods where there is a high concentration of Portuguese residents. The romeiros of Toronto is the first such organization founded outside of São Miguel.
The Rancho dos Romeiros of Toronto was formed in 1982 by Francisco Rodrigues, António Oliveira, and other immigrants from São Miguel, Azores. Every year on Good Friday, this group of devout Catholics perform a religious tradition from the homeland that dates back to 1522. That year, a series of earthquakes destroyed Vila Franca do Campo, then the capital of São Miguel, and killed around 5,000 people. Legend goes that its survivors flocked to their churches day and night to pray for the tremors to stop. Some of them organized into groups of pilgrims who travelled the island to pray in churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Eventually, groups of romeiros were formed in every parish of São Miguel and began organizing their pilgrimages under a standardized hierarchical structure, hymns, customs, and iconography.
The romeiros are led by the mestre (master), contramestre (foreman), and the procurados das almas (solicitor of souls), and followed by a menino da cruz (boy with the cross), two guides, and the other pilgrims. Each pilgrim must carry a bordão (staff), shawl, handkerchief, and rosary, representing different aspects of Jesus Christ’s via dolorosa. In São Miguel, the pilgrimage takes place during Lent over a period of eight days, each starting before dawn and ending at sunset. In Toronto, the pilgrimage only takes one day, Good Friday. Here the romeiros walk on sidewalks and visit eight Catholic churches in the Portuguese neighbourhoods in West Toronto, covering about 12 kilometres in 7 hours. Another significant difference between the romeiros’ tradition in São Miguel and Toronto is the fact that the first is segregated by gender and is predominantly male, whereas in the latter they have a mixed group.
Hora dos Portugueses
Short description: Romeiros outfit
Materials: Wood, metal, plastic, wool, other fabric
Description: Romeiro outfit worn by Mestre António Oliveira when participating in the Easter romarias. It consists of a brown woollen shawl; green, purple, pink and white handkerchief with floral pattern; white cloth bag with floral pattern; and a rosary with wooden beads bought in Fátima, Portugal.