Amid crowds of curious onlookers, a steady stream of queens, musicians, I.D.E.S leaders and dozens from California’s Portuguese community jauntily wound down Pescadero’s Stage Road on Sunday. Visiting bands blared, drill teams marched, and big and little queens alike flashed smiles during a parade that honored a Portuguese tradition that goes back generations.
The procession was a high point in the 119th Pescadero Holy Ghost Festival, which was held on both Sunday and Monday. The annual celebration, held by the I.D.E.S — Irmandade do Divino Espirito Santo, or Society of the Divine Holy Spirit — gives Portuguese people worldwide an opportunity to affirm their faith and pay homage to their culture.
Henry Rodrigues, a member of the S.E.S. Portuguese Hall of Santa Clara, who grew up in Pescadero, said that the festival represents an integral part of California’s Portuguese heritage.
“It’s such a deep tradition of (honoring) where we came from,” he said. “And because it’s lasted this long, it makes it that much more important that we keep it going.
“I really commend the (Pescadero I.D.E.S. Society) for the excellent job that they’ve been doing to maintain the tradition,” added Rodrigues.
The Holy Ghost Festival, also known as “Chamarita” after a dance historically performed at the festival, traces its origins back to 14th century Queen Isabel of Portugal. Facing pestilence and famine, the people of the Azores Islands prayed for deliverance — and then sighted a ship bringing food and goods into the port on Pentecost morning. Carrying her crown, Queen Isabel led a procession to her church’s altar, where she reverently laid down the crown to show thanks to the Holy Ghost.
In modern-day Chamarita celebrations, a teenage girl is chosen from the community to be the queen, who emulates Isabel’s journey by transporting a crown to the local church.
This year’s festivities kicked off at 10 a.m. on Sunday, as the parade flowed from the Pescadero I.D.E.S. Hall to St. Anthony’s Church for Mass. The procession was led by parade marshal Anthony Brazil Jr. and the day’s queen, Leanne Alves, and little queen, Megan Sarabia. The queens, who donned gossamer, white lace ball gowns for the occasion, were surrounded by a court of side maids and officials from the Pescadero I.D.E.S. Society.
The parade also features local and visiting marching bands and drill teams. Dominic Soarez, a member of the Filarmonica Artista Amadora de San Leandro, which translates to the Band of Amateur Artists of San Leandro, said that the festivities showcase the contributions that the Portuguese have made to history and culture.
“It keeps our presence alive,” said Soarez.
“It’s really great,” added fellow musician Greg Rocha. “Pescadero is a small town, but there’s a strong desire to keep traditions going.”