History

FESTA DO DIVINO ESPIRITO SANTO

(Feast of the Holy Spirit)

This religious practice originates with Queen Saint Isabel, daughter of the King of Aragon, who was married to young monarch, Diniz, in Portugal. She was known for her religiosity and compassionate heart, constantly serving the poor in their circumstantial need. Often times, it is said that the Queen 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 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, 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; she had no financial resources left, only her crown the symbol of her royalty state. 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 Espirito Santo or Feast of the Holy Spirit to intercede in time of danger or calamities. 

In San Diego, the Festa 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.

 


THE CROWN

The Crown, “Coroa” , consists of three individual pieces. The Scepter of the Crown is accented by a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit whose love was so manifested in Queen St. Isabel’s life. The Crown has a double significance: first, it represents the supreme dominion of the Holy Spirit and second, the Crown represents the royalty of Queen St. Isabel. The Plate, serving as a stand for the Crown and the Scepter, represents the people. If we are to be true followers of Jesus Christ, we must serve others. As a plate holds food which is given to the hungry, we are called to actively serve, like Queen St. Isabel. Not only to be touched by God’s Holy Spirit, but to see that divine

transformation into the visible reality of serving others in their spiritual, physical and emotional needs.

With limited means, the Portuguese community of San Diego, succeeded in purchasing a Crown, “Coroa”, which still to this day, adorns our annual Festa. Mr. Frank Silva, a native of Cabo Verde, took the initiative for the acquisition of the Crown. 

 


The names of the contributors as follow:

Manuel Cabral Frank Mitchell 

Antonio Pereira Caldoverde Manuel Mitchell 

Manuel Cunha Antonio Monise 

Frank Goulart Jose Monteiro 

Manuel Francisco Goulart  Jose Leal Monteiro 

Frank Lawrence Dionisio Oliver 

Jose Lawrence Lawrence Oliver 

Manuel Madruga Manuel P. Silva 

Joao Moniz Medeiros, Jr. Manuel Silveira 

Jose Moniz Medeiros  Manuel Silveria Soares 

Joao Machado Medina Manuel Tavares 

Jose Miller Jose Vieira 

 

THE PORTUGUESE HALL & THE CHAPEL

From 1910 to 1922 there was no definite place where the Festa could be celebrated. Thanks to the energetic efforts of the Portuguese residents, led by Mr. M.O. Medina and his committee, in 1922 the first United Portuguese Sociedade do Espirito Santo (U.P.S.E.S.) Hall and Chapel were inaugurated. This was not an easy task for they had no money to finance the building. With limited funds borrowed from individuals, 

Mr. M. O. Medina, with a crew member from each Portuguese fishing vessel, started the Chapel construction. The Chapel was built under the direction of three brother-in-laws:

John Lucas, a mason, Joseph Athaide, a carpenter and Frank Brown, a painter. Later, with that ardent desire to pay for the Hall, they went as far as to donate one day of fishing from each Portuguese fishing vessel.

As time went on, the need for a larger hall became apparent and in 1928 a separate unit was added to the Hall and later joined to the larger Hall in 1941. The U.P.S.E.S. Board of Directors resolved to erect the present main building, which was completed in 1949. The Hall continues to grow with additions and remodeling.

Many people have faithfully worked for the benefit of this organization however it hardly seems possible to mention the United Portuguese S.E.S. Hall’s history without justly associating it to a man who devoted more time and energy to the organization than nay other person, Mr. M.O. Medina. At the request of the Portuguese community in 1921, Mr. Medina assumed the responsibility of President of the United Portuguese S.E.S. Hall, a position which he held from 1921-1932 and 1938 -1977.

 In speaking of the men, the women also played an important part in all of these accomplishments. They not only had to toil behind the stoves to cook the celebrated dish of ”Sopas” for the Festas but they also helped maintain the Faith so admirably rooted in their convictions. 

The names of many women who headed our kitchen crews throughout the years are as follows: Conceicao Athaide, Maria Cabral, Angie Goulart, Margaret Madruga Maria Emilia Monise, Maria Rita Monise, Florinda Neto, Etelvina Neves, Maria Alice Oliveria, Evelyn Medina Silva, Maria Virginia Silva, and Conceicao Virissimo

 For the past few years the kitchen has been under the direction of Mr. Gabe Leal. 


THE CHAPEL

An important part of the celebration of the Festa is the existence of a Chapel to house the Crown during the festivities. The U.P.S.E.S. Chapel was completed in 1922 and inaugurated together with the first hall that stood on the same site of the present hall.

 

The design of the Chapel is a facsimile of those that exist on the island of Terceira, Azores. It follows the design of the chapels of that era with a center door and a window to either side. There were some modifications made to the original concept including the placing of a cross on the center cupola. The original design called for the Crown and Scepter as the focal points of the Festa. Leading to the front door are steps which traditionally are shaped like a pyramid. The interior of the Chapel reflects the design of the chapels that were found in the tuna vessels of that era.

 

Today, as it was intended in 1922, the Chapel 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 Bread-which is sold to raise monies- to assure the continuation of this unique ethnic religious celebration.