Celebrate Portuguese Heritage by joining in the city's oldest ethnic festival, Festa do Espirito Santo, that commemorates Portugal's Queen St. Isabel.
It is said that Queen Saint Isabel saved bread from her own table to give to the hungry. Legend has it that the King tried to stop her from mingling with the poor and the Queen was once caught hiding something in her cloak. When he demanded that she open her cloak to show the concealed food, she said a prayer and threw open her cloak. Instead of bread, red roses tumbled out. It is for this reason that the statue of Queen St. Isabel is depicted with the mantle of flowers.
At one time during Queen St. Isabel's reign there was a terrible famine in Portugal. The Queen depleted all her funds while seeking food for her people and she had no financial resources left except her crown, the symbol of her royalty. One morning, at Mass, she promised the Holy Spirit, "I will give my crown to the Church if you will send me a miracle, so my people will be relieved of their hunger."
As she left the church, she saw ships coming into the harbor loaded with wheat and corn! For over 700 years Portuguese people have celebrated this event in the Festa do Espírito Santo (aka. Feast of the Holy Spirit), thanking and praying to the Holy Spirit to intercede in times of danger or calamity.
In San Diego, the Festa do Espírito Santo is the oldest ethnic religious celebration, dating back to the time when the first families settled here in 1884 and was formally organized in 1910.
Today, as it has been since 1922, the Chapel next door to the UPSES Hall is used to house the Crown of the Holy Spirit during the Festa. On Pentecost Sunday devotees of the Holy Spirit visit the Chapel to pray and offer a donation of monies or Portuguese sweet breads (which are sold to raise funds) to assure the continuation of this unique ethnic and religious celebration.
Since 1922, our Portuguese colony here has made a procession (now a full parade) from our UPSES Hall chapel (i.e. capela) with our annual Queen Saint Isabel personage holding our community's Crown of the Holy Spirit, up to St. Agnes Church for a celebratory Mass followed by another procession/parade back down to our Hall afterward. Our chapel was built especially to hold our Holy Spirit Crowns during the Festa do Espírito Santo.
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