Festas - By Terry Brazil

Executive Director

Tulare Historical Musuem

This year’s Holy Ghost Festa, held in May, was extra-special for me in that the first celebration in Tulare was held in 1908 at the Manuel Pedrozo “Pete” Brazil ranch.

Pete Brazil was the beloved grandfather of my husband, Lionel H. Brazil.  The legends of this first celebration and intriguing facts about it (and other celebrations) are found in the book “The Holy Ghost Festas:  A Historic Perspective of the Portuguese in California.”  The article was written by Tulare resident and historian Adrienne Alston.

That first celebration was very basic in comparison to what went on in Tulare on the Memorial Day weekend this year.  Alston notes in her article:  “Mrs. Mary Silveira Mancebo said long before a hall was built in Tulare, “I do remember the Brazils had a week of saying the rosary” and then a big dinner on Sunday.”

Honoring the 100-year mark of that first celebration, Rosie and Mario Dias called to ask if any descendants of Pete Brazil would be able to attend this year’s traditional celebration in Tulare.

Michael S. Brazil, great grandson of Pete Brazil, and one of his twin daughters, Monica Brazil, a a great-great granddaughter, were able to participate in the traditions, along with Al Rodrigues, other great grandson who lives in Sacramento.

Both Mike and Monica were very impressed with the fact these traditional, spiritual customs are carried out each year within the Portuguese community with as much enthusiasm and reverence as when first celebrated in the U.S. by Portuguese immigrants from the Azores 200-plus years ago!

Mike spoke of many aspects of the celebration he found memorable, starting with the Saturday, May 24, delivery of meals, with a bottle of red wine, to needy families, which he viewed as a tribute to the generosity of the TDES celebration.

To see the food packages which included a piece of fresh meat, a loaf of “salt and water” bread and the bottle of red wine all laid on tables to be taken to the homes was indeed impressive.  The gift is a tradition in the old country.  The “sopas” food at the TDES Hall is free for all, provided by generous donors.  (400 Bread Loaves).

I understand another interesting sight was 400 loaves of bread drying/curing on the tables preparing for use with the sopas.

The Saturday evening rosary in the TDES Imperio Chapel was conducted in the Portuguese language followed by passing of the crown from last year’s queen to the new queen and then dancing and music until the early morning hours of Sunday, May 25.

Displayed in the TDES Hall were the elegant capes (possibly 20-30) from past queens.  Each identified with the queen’s name and year of reign.  These capes were on loan from the queens or their families.

While lining up for the parade from St. Aloysius Catholic Church to the T.D.E.S. Hall on Sunday, May 25, there was rain and cold (unusual for May), but that did deter any of the participants, including:

  • Senior queen Andrea Leonardo and her attendants, Jeslyn Moules and Amanda Meneses;
  • Junior queen Caitlyn Toste and her attendants Kimberly Lourenco and Ashley Meneses, each dressed in their fine dresses and the queens wearing their very elegant capes;
  • Festa President Anolfo Avila and wife, Elsa, with other dignitaries, including Vice President Joaquin Mattos, Secretary Joe Bernardo, Treasurer John Mendonca, and parade chairman Mario Dias and wife, Rosie.
  • A parade float carried past queens (including one from 1941), six individuals walked as they carried the 1918 crown of the Holy Spirit on their shoulders.  Also marching were officers and queens from lodges in other cities.

Mike and Monica said they were honored to be participants in this important part of the impressive celebration.

At the church there was the transfer and blessing of the crown, celebration of Mass, introduction of the past and present queens, and presentation of a plaque honoring the Manuel P. Brazil family for being the “first family” to host the festa 100 years ago.

Grand March

Sunday evening there was another dance including the Grand March, which is a special tradition with music and fun, capping a week-long 100th celebration of the Holy Ghost Festa in Tulare.

Monica commented on the importance of being involved in the strong traditions that continue to last over 200 years in many California cities.  She was impressed with the solemnity and seriousness of the customs – even down to the “dressed-up-quality” and determination of the parade participants even though it was raining hard.

I would bet this 13 year-old granddaughter will be at the festa again in other years, even convincing her sister Jade and Mother, Angel (Sevener) Brazil to join Dad and her.

To learn more of the customs and traditions of the festa in each participating California city, you can buy a copy of “The Holy Ghost Festas:  A Historic Perspective of the Portuguese in California” at the gift shop at the Tulare Historical Museum.  Other books with a Portuguese American theme for sale include: “Portuguese Californians: Immigrants in Agriculture,” and “the Portuguese Shore Whalers of California, 1854-1904.

Special thanks to Kary Mancebo-Ingram and Lucy Rodrigues for their help and personal touches to the history of the celebrations