The following comes from a July 3 story in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
As the legend goes, Queen Isabel promised God she would give away her crown if He would help her feed the people of Portugal.
When the Holy Ghost delivered two ships full grain and animals to her famished country, Queen Isabel is said to have led a procession through Lisbon to its cathedral, where she left her crown.
For the past 700 years, Isabel has been honored as a saint and her 14th century procession immortalized in the annual Portuguese-American Holy Ghost Parade and Festival or “festa,” which took place in downtown Santa Cruz on Sunday.
The festa began with a sumptuous procession up Pacific Avenue and Mission Street to the Holy Cross Catholic Church for mass and concluded at the Santa Cruz Portuguese Hall in Harvey West Park for a free community dinner of sopas, a traditional beef dish.
Debbie Rinaldo, 41, of Tracy walked behind her daughter Giada, 8, as the procession made its way up Pacific Avenue.
Like the 20 or more other queens in the parade from different cities around California, little Giada trailed a silk cape overlain with lace and dazzling stones. She carried a crown in her hands and was escorted by two sidemaids.
“The falling seven leaves sewn into her cape represents the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit,” Rinaldo said. “The crown represents Saint Isabel.”
Sunday’s festa was just one of nearly 20 that the young queens participate in every year. Protected by an under-sheet of clear, commercial-grade plastic, the magnificent capes are dragged in weekly processions all over the state between Easter and October.
Joe Mendez, 37 of Tulare, carried his society’s banner as the procession made its way up the steep slope of Mission to the Holy Cross Catholic Church. “I think the furthest south we go this year for a festas will be Artesia, just south of Los Angeles, and the furthest north is San Jose,” Mendez said.