Portuguese Celebrations in California

by Mark Nero

A number of cities and towns throughout California are home to communities with strong Portuguese heritages. Some are major metropolises like San Jose and San Diego, while others are small towns like Cayucos and Gustine. These towns regularly present parades, festivals and other events celebrating Portuguese heritage.

Portuguese Week

Portuguese Week is an annual event that takes place from Sunday through Saturday each spring in San Jose. It is among the largest and most well-known Portuguese-themed celebrations in California. Each day brings different activities, including Portuguese orchestral music, a gala dinner and a symposium honoring an important native of Portugal. The main event, which is held in History Park, is the Dia de Portugal Festival. The festival, put on by the Portuguese Heritage Society of California on the last day of the celebration, includes a parade, live entertainment, a book fair and a childrens' carnival.

The Festa

The Festa do Divino Espirito Santo -- Feast of the Holy Spirit -- is an annual event put on by Portuguese Hall San Diego. The multiday event is more than 100 years old, one of the oldest ethnic religious events held in the city. It takes place each spring, usually in May or June, and includes a bazaar with Portuguese music and folkloric dancing; a performance by the Portuguese Philharmonic; and a festive, colorful parade featuring dozens of children, marching bands and floats.

Portuguese Celebration and Parade

The Portuguese Celebration and Parade is a two-day event that honors Portugal's Queen Isabel, who sold her jewelry to help feed the poor during a time of drought and economic depression. The event takes place during the last weekend in July in the small central California coastal town of Cayucos, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco in San Luis Obispo County. The event, which is open to the public and is centralized around the Veterans Memorial Pier, includes a unity march, folk dancing and free traditional Portuguese food on Saturday. On Sunday, there's a morning parade, followed by a church mass.

Our Lady of Miracles Festival

The Our Lady of Miracles Festival is an annual event that takes place each September in Gustine, California. The multiday event, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2011, attracts thousands each year. It is dedicated to Portuguese culture and the Catholic faith, which are embodied in the heritage and customs practiced at the Our Lady of Miracles church. Events include a mass, a parade, a concert, comedy and variety shows and bullfights.