History


Portuguese Americans from the Azores-many whose ancestors came to the West to fish or farm hold festas (pronounced "fesh-tas") in California, Nevada, and Hawaii. There may be one in your city or town; more than 500,000 Azorean Americans live in California alone.

The festa tradition, which has been observed in this country for about a hundred years, mingles Catholic religious beliefs and ancient legend. Although the sentiment behind festas is the same everywhere, particular customs can differ between communities. The Sunday portion usually starts at 10 A.M., with a parade from the Portuguese hall in town to a church. 

Appointed festa queens make their way down the parade route towing capes of velvet, jewels, seed pearls, beading, feathers, and appliques (their finery, and other aspects of the festa, recall 14th-century Queen Isabel, a peacemaker and friend to the poor-particularly during a Portuguese famine). A Portuguese brass band or two enliven the atmosphere.

Parade participants enter church where Mass is said, often in Portuguese. After the Mass, the priest crowns the queen at the altar.