It rains on Santiago
My sweet love.
White camellia of air,
Sunlight in a veil.
It rains on Santiago,
In the dark night.
Grass of silver and dream
Covers the empty moon
See the rain in the streets,
The lament of stone and glass.
See on the fading wind
Your sea’s shadow and ash.
Your sea’s shadow and ash,
Santiago, far from the sun,
Shivering in my heart.
Water of an ancient dawn.
(Federico García Lorca)
Chove en Santiago (It Rains on Santiago) is included in the anthology entitled Seis poemas galegos (Six Galician Poems) that the Andalusian poet published in 1935. Some of you may be familiar with the hauntingly beautiful version put to music by Luar na Lubre (www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI-Q8yBoV2o).
In an unfeigned tribute to Rosalía de Castro, Lorca uses the rain as an instrument to transmit sensations of melancholy, nostalgia and heartbreak; yet the rain does not always have to be synonymous with gloom and sadness. Consider for a moment the relief it provides following a drought, or the joy it brings to those that live in a desert. Anyone who has visited Santiago de Compostela knows that reality has myriad interpretations, and there is always a positive side to any experience.
Some pilgrims have expressed their disappointment at being caught in heavy rain during their stay in the city. It is true that we never know what will befall us, and Santiago is indeed one of the rainiest cities in Spain, second only to San Sebastian, with between 140 and 150 days of rain a year.
When it comes to hours of sunshine, the city also ranks amongst the least fortunate, with an annual average of just 1,950; only San Sebastian, the other Basque Country cities and Santander have fewer hours.
The chances of being caught in the rain are therefore high, although as the majority of pilgrims arrive in the city between Holy Week and the end of October, things are not quite as bad as they seem, as the rainfall is concentrated mainly between the middle of October and mid spring.
Your visit to the city may coincide with a dry year, when rainfall is scarce, even in winter, or with a very wet period, such as the autumn and winter of 2019 and 2020. There is no telling with the weather; all you can do is study the forecasts based on statistics in an attempt to choose the right month (the odds are logically higher in summer).
Yet whatever the case, the most important thing is not to let the weather get you down. Remember, water is a source of life, essential for the verdant landscapes that have accompanied us on our journey to Obradoiro Square. There is likewise no comparison between an autumn or winter gale, with heavy and persistent rainfall and the short, sharp cloudburst that accompanies a summer storm, or a shower or the light drizzle that is known as orballo in Galicia, where there are countless words to describe the many types of rain; a subject we know a thing or two about here.
fino orballo no chán pousa
con feitiña curvadeira,
remollando na ribeira
frol por frol, chousa por chousa.
(Rosalía de Castro, Cantares Gallegos)
Whilst, as the words of Rosalía de Castro clearly show, this fine rain known as orballo can acquire a poetic dimension along the Way, in the city of Santiago, and as a classic slogan reads, it is nothing less than an art form. A claim that is wholeheartedly shared by those that photograph the rain-soaked paving stones of the historic quarter, gleaming in the early morning sunlight.
As the city’s many university students well know, a café provides the perfect refuge when the leaden skies dampen their spirits. The countless bars and taverns provide another haven in which to feed the mind through the stomach.
The city also boasts an extensive cultural offer, including exhibitions, museums and other events, guaranteed to chase away all feelings of melancholy and idleness on those rainy days.
The rain can even be a reason for returning to the city, because just as the temptation to win first prize drives you to buy a lottery ticket, you also have to try your luck in Santiago. Here the odds of winning are far higher – over 50%. So if it rains, don’t be disappointed, it’s simply the Apostle’s way of inviting you to return.