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May 31, 2010

My Portuguese Heritage

Yesterday, the kids and I met my parents at the Petaluma Holy Ghost Society Portuguese Festa.  Being Portuguese, I grew up attending these Festas every summer, all summer long.  I want my kids to be exposed to the Portuguese culture as they grow up,  just as I was.  This is the perfect way to do it!

A little bit of my family background:  My Dad is the youngest of 13 brothers and sisters and was born and raised on the Azores island of Sao Jorge.  In his late 20's, he decided to move off the island and make his way to America as most of his brothers and sisters had already done.  On his journey, he stopped over in Brazil for about two years where he found a job as a Milk Man and met my Mom. My mom's heritage is Italian but she was born and raised in Brazil with her 12 brothers and sisters.  All of my Mom's family is still in Brazil and we have never met any of them in person. 

After his two years in Brazil, my Dad made his way to America.  He sent for my Mom to come over three months later.  They made a happy life for themselves and eventually us, when we came along in Northern California.

In the very early years, my Dad worked on a couple of different dairies as a milker.  By the time my sisters and I came along, he had taken a job at McNear Brick Company and then eventually Sonoma State University to work as a grounds keeper where he retired from.  My mom was a Stay at Home Mom raising my two sisters and me.

We didn't go on any family vacations but we did get to attend EVERY Portuguese Festa in the surrounding area.  Probably about 6 or 7 every summer.  We met many new friends at the festas that we would only see when we attended the festas, something for us to look forward to. 

Festas:  are typically celebrated with parades, a special mass in town at the Catholic church, and a coronation of the festa "queens" with feasts of sopas (soup) and meat following afterwards. It is said that Queen Isabel of Portugal was compassionate towards her subjects during a 14th century famine, and often snuck out to feed the poor with bread hidden in her cape.

In today's parades, young women re-enact her legacy and dress as queens in formal gowns, velvet capes and tiaras. Each association's annual coronation is honored by the presence of local queens and their families. The queens are selected based on succession; depending on how long a girl has been marching with the association, she can move up from flower girl or side maid and eventually earn her place as baby, junior, or senior queen.



Here are this year's queens and side attendants from Petaluma's festa.....


Flag bearers from the parade...


Our Lady of Fatima statue.......


St. Anthony statue........

When the parade arrives back at the hall, the Senior Queen releases a white dove.


Lunch is served.  Soupas.  French bread soaked in special seasoning juices.

Meat so tender and flavorful, no knife is needed.

It's all served up family style.  One of my sisters, Gloria, pouring some punch for one of her friends....


In Petaluma, there are two dining halls. Both are filled to capacity.

The kitchen crew.......


In one of the dining halls there is a display of all the past Petaluma queens.....

I found a photo of my sister, Lisa, when she walked as Junior Queen in 1986.


After we ate, the kids wanted to check out the little chapel adjacent to the dining hall.  This chapel is only used the Friday night before the parade to recite the rosary for the new queen.

"Hurry up and take your picture, Mom"

Dad, Mom, Bryce and Paige in the chapel.

In the dance hall, games were played.....


Bryce won a knife set.....great!  The conversation on the drive home was dominated by Bryce trying to negotiate keeping his knife set in his bedroom.  Sorry buddy.


Paige's prize, dish towels which she promptly threw down to the ground exclaiming for ALL to hear that she didn't want them!  I knew they would be grumpy today after going to sleep late the night before.


Some live auction items.......

Dessert.  I LOVE these Portuguese cookies!  They are my favorite!

I'm trying to track down this recipe so that I may attempt to bake a batch.
A soupa dinner is served again at 6 p.m. and dancing goes on late into the night. We didn't stay.....maybe next time!
Happy Memorial Day!
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