By Lily Bixler [ email@example.com ]
men are jammed like sardines into the kitchen. They are jovial men wearing
matching maroon aprons and sipping beers as they keep a collective eye on the
four big brick ovens where around 7,500 pounds of beef cook for the weekend Holy
Little chalkboards next to each oven indicate the time at which the meat went into the 1,100-degree oven.
Every year, traditionally on the seventh Sunday after Easter, Half Moon Bay's Portuguese constituency feeds the community in celebration of Holy Ghost Festival. The festival includes a parade, a carnival, a feast, a church ceremony and the crowning of a new queen.
A banquet hall on the other side of the building is filled with 200 people eating an
batch of the meat. It's just after noon Sunday, and this is the second seating
of the day, head cook Tony Lourenco explained. The third seating will come
after lunch, once church lets out.
Lourenco, who is a member of the I.D.E.S Society, moved to Half Moon Bay in 1968 from the Azores, the Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean and ancestral home of many in the Coastside Portuguese community.
A nearby building houses the crown. A group of mostly elderly women rest there in the carpeted chapel - decorated with red carnations - for a reprieve from the cotton candy bustle of the carnival outside.
Down a few blocks on the other side of Main Street, a queen and her side maid from South San Francisco sit on the bench at Our Lady of the Pillar Catholic Church. The girls study for their final exams and wait for church to end so they can march in the parade back to the carnival and banquet hall for lunch.
The South San Francisco queen, Athena Moguel, who is half Portuguese, said the Holy Ghost Festival is about the spirit of God. Her mother, Maria Azevedo, chimed in.
"She'll always remember this experience," she said. "Hopefully her kids will do it too."
Azevedo explained that there are many interpretations of why the Portuguese celebrate the Holy Ghost, but in her mind it's because Portugal's Queen Isabel sneaked bread for the poor, wrapping it in her apron to conceal it from the king. One day the king caught her and asked what was in her skirt. She told him it was flowers.
Indeed, when she let the gathered pleats of her skirt down, flowers fell out. Azevedo explained this moment saying, "When the roses came, it was spiritual."
"I'm not really religious, but this is more about celebrating Portuguese culture for me," said the queen's maid.
"Portuguese people born here kept the tradition," Lourenco said, adding that Half Moon Bay previously celebrated Holy Ghost differently. "They used to play a few guitars behind the queen, but now we have three Portuguese bands behind her."
Half Moon Bay Review, aqui.