Viva La, Y’all!

(It’s that time of year again, and if you didn’t read this before, here’s what all the Viva Las!!! are all about…)

It’s Fiesta again in Santa Barbara, and if you don’t know about our fair city’s yearly celebration, let me fill you in:  It’s a five-day-all-you-can-drink non-stop party with sombreros.  There’s a parade (filled with horses), lots of alcohol (mostly tequila and cervesa (beer), but hey, in a pinch even Baily’s Irish Cream will do) and so much Spanish-style dancing in colorful costumes you’ll think you wandered on to the set of “Zorro.”

Today’s Fiesta, also called “Old Spanish Days,” was originally started by the local Poole-Verhelle Dancers in 1922.  Dancing for personal enjoyment and community entertainment eventually evolved into big tourist business known as La Fiesta.  Here’s a photo of that original group:


My grandfather is supposed to be somewhere in that photo.  But for the life of me, I don’t see him anywhere – maybe he was behind the camera taking the picture.  You can see him (and my grandmother) in this photo below, all dressed up in their finest.

Bobbie & nanie Fiesta

And going back one more generation – before Fiesta became commercialized and was simply a helluva great fandango – here’s my great-grandfather.

Great-grandfather fiesta

If you’re a certain type of local, however, Fiesta time in Santa Barbara is when you abandon the town to the tourists and take off to Hawaii.  My dad and uncle always took ten days off on the dates when Fiesta would fall.  They had their own business – an ironworks/welding shop – and they’d hurry like hell to finish up their jobs, sometimes working right up to the night before Fiesta Pequena at the Mission kicked off that year’s big party.  How they managed to get all of their work done in time for their getaway was always a Fiesta miracle, and involved long hours of work, much yelling, swearing, and both brothers threatening each other with martyrdom: “I’m not going on vacation!!!” “NO, I’m not going!!!” Although their parents’ generation had started Fiesta, the two brothers hated that time of the year in their hometown. Maybe this photo had something to do with it:

Dad Fiesta

That must have been the one and only time the brothers dressed up in costumes.  Too bad because they were awfully cute hombrecitos.

In spite of the dislike the two brothers had for Old Spanish Days craziness, the love for Fiesta still beats strongly in the younger generation.  My kids always stop their own lives to return like spawning salmon to their hometown, and the sweet sounds of mariachis, and cascarones crunching against people’s heads.  If you don’t know what a cascarone is, come to Santa Barbara this weekend and we’ll show you.

Not me, of course.

I’m getting the hell out of here before the tourists take over.

(If you enjoyed reading this post and you’d like to read more by Darlene Craviotto…) 

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(Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes iBooks Store)

6 thoughts on “Viva La, Y’all!

  1. When I was a young-un I enjoyed El Desfile, Desfile Pequeno and the Pramenade. Add a few anos and I liked going to the rodeo. I made good cash eating scrambled eggs for half a year to make and sell cascarones. But as I am a product of the Great Society I started to become disillusioned at the hypocrisy of the more affluent celebrating “their” heritage while minorities were at best tolerated the rest of the year. I didn’t miss it as life brought me up and down the state. Maybe some day I’ll go back now that my journey has brought me closer. But then I’ll be one of the reasons you abandon the town and take off


    • Hahaha! No, I would be willing to stay in town and (dare I say it) celebrate Fiesta with you and Mary. And yes, you bring up a valid point about the heritage issue. I hope to explore some of that in the novel – which seems to be developing into this huge overwhelming saga. Oh well, one page at a time…


    • Been stuck in 18th century Mexico as I write this novel I was so foolhardy to start. But since the beginnings of the novel harken back to the first hispanics to settle California, and they were the people we now dress up as during Fiesta, I had to post this once again. “Old Spanish Days” has a new significance to me after a year’s worth of research for the book.


  2. Funny you mention getting the heck out of town during Fiesta Days!! After thoroughly enjoying Fiesta for the first 15 years I lived in SB, I have to admit I’m totally burned out on it – perhaps because I’m so old and past the drinking and partying all night stage of my life??? My kids, now in their 20s, still enjoy it!! This year, of course, I don’t have to plan our annual vacation to ensure we’re out of town during Fiesta because we no longer live there!!

    Nice to see another blog entry from you Darlene!


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