The Spirit of Espirito Santo
andromeda of plymouth
Susan and Andrew Wilson
Mon 12 Jul 2010 22:41
the Holy Spirit).
It was by chance that we stayed on in Ponta Delgarda and how glad we are
that we did. We had seen the preparations for this weekend’s festival as
we explored the town but didn’t realise the delights in store for us.
On Friday we came across the big gazebo in the square to the side of the
main church S. Sebastiao. Inside the gazebo was a giant round display
stand, looking very much like a huge wedding cake covered as it was in
brilliant white material and decorated with copious amounts of white
flowers of every sort in brilliant displays, roses, lilies, carnations etc
mixed with green foliage and fern, absolutely stunning. On the stand were
packages carefully wrapped up either in transparent film or delicately
decorated white paper containing various breads from around the different
villages and towns of Sao Miguel. Several huge wine barrels were placed
in front of the display. In each corner of the gazebo there was a very
large floral arrangement adding even more scent to the air.
Across from the gazebo towards the sea at the other end of the square they
had erected a huge white crown with a sceptre through it with a dove on
one end. At the other end of the square was a bandstand. The buildings
around this square had been hung with white, yellow and red flags and
banners and on the town hall and adjacent buildings yellow cloths were
hung over the balconies.
The festivities started on Thursday evening with a conference and a
concert by the Johann Sebastian Bach Choir in S. Sebastiao church. Friday
evening they opened the town hall exhibitions of photos and handicrafts
and the evening finished with music from the town’s youth orchestra
followed by a concert of traditional music. On Saturday things went up a
gear and at midday there were 12,000 bowls of especially made soup and
bread distributed to all comers (somehow we missed this bit).
At 3pm the festival parade started to make its way down the avenida and we
had a prime spot on the kerb just above the marina along with our friends
from Kodiak, Lesley and Andy. The parade had representatives from all 24
towns giving thanks and spreading their previous year’s good fortune by
giving out sweet bread, wine – some very, very good, fizzy pop, beer –
dispensed from large barrels and wonderfully cold and surrounded by people
all along the route, milk (some of it milked fresh from the cow in front
of you), freshly cooked (i.e. on the floats) donughts, hot meat dish (not
quite sure what it was) and sardines, candy sweets and meringues, all with
huge smiles and laughter. Every town provided quite a few floats, covered
wagons etc. so to our surprise after 3 hours we were still waiting for the
end. The various wagons and carts were either pulled along by beautifully
matched brown bulls in such lovely condition with shiny coats and bright
eyes. Many were decorated to complement the wagons they pulled along. Most
of these traditional carts made a a real racket as they had wooden wheels
on turning wooden axles and we sometimes wanted to run off for some WD40.
Some of the bulls had huge bells around their necks which rang out as they
made their way along the road. Every now and then a smaller cart appeared
pulled by a goat or a pair of kids and once even by a reluctant sheep busy
trying to ram his guide and get away.
We were very lucky to get talking to a local lady who spoke great English
and she explained a few of the customs to us. Most of the bulls looked so
good because they are kept in fields all year round and the only time they
are expected to do anything is on this parade once a year.
Interspersing the wagons were different troupes of local dancers, with
each village/town having its own variation of a traditional dance which
they duly displayed whenever the parade stopped, so, very frequently. The
ladies worn costumes of brightly coloured skirts and tops and headscarves
and the men in various outfits, some of which were suits made from hand
woven wool, they looked very warm in the sunshine. Strolling groups of
musicians provided the tunes for the people to dance and sing to and they
all looked to be enjoying themselves immensely. There were even some
irreverent folks dressed in bishops and priests robes blessing everyone
with whisky! It was great fun and had a fabulous atmosphere.
After the parade we went up to eat at a cafe on the avenida and then
strolled down to the bandstand to listen to the Military Orchestra of the
Azores who played a real mixture of tunes, many of which we recognised.
On the way we stopped off in a local bookshop and found an impressive
array of English language books – Susan bought a few! As the orchestra
finished its set we wandered along to another square further along down by
the fort for a pop concert by Rui Veloso, a Portuguese rock singer and
musician and his band. We didn’t recognise any of the tunes this time and
couldn’t understand most of the words but he certainly rocked it out a few
times and we really enjoyed the concert. We were standing next a lovely
family of mum, dad and small son (about 3 or 4) who was fascinated because
Andy kept whistling with his fingers at the end of each number. Some
people in front of us also had bought their Portuguese water dog puppy
along and he seemed to be enjoying it too.
All day Sunday we could hear snatches of music from around the town
intermingled with the many bells that ring on the hour from the numerous
clocks on the churches then at 4pm a more solemn procession made its way
round the town. This one involved church and town dignitaries complete in
most cases with their own town brass band, processing the church banners
(most richly embroidered and decorated, gold and white on to deep ruby
red) and various silver icons (most in the shape of the crown with a
sceptre and dove )representing the Espirito Santo.
In the evening after a great meal on board Kodiak (and after a refreshing
swim in the sea down by the old marina, next to the salt water pool
complex) we again made our way along to one of the bars on the inner side
of the marina to watch the end of the World Cup. We chose to sit in a
little bar by the bowling alley and duly watch the unfolding minutes of
the game, then the extra time and then the Spanish victory. In front of us
was an obvious Spanish couple willing their team to win and the owner of
the bar who knew them was also Spanish. After the victory and a few
verses of Viva Espania on our behalf the couple bought a bottle of
champagne and shared it with us – most unexpected.
We then wandered back down to the town hall and listened to some beautiful
traditional ballads sung by an Azorian poet who had come over to Sao
Miguel from Canada for the festival. We then ventured into the town hall
and saw the photo display and the Room of the Holy Spirit. This again had
wonderful floral displays in white and green and many display areas where
a few of the silver icons were still on show and where previously all
those shown in the procession, had previously been on display. As came
down the steps of the town hall we got talking to one of the local
officials and suddenly much to our surprise were introduced to the Mayor
of Ponta Delgarda. What a lovely lady, she took time to speak to us,
explaining some of the things that had been puzzling us and all in perfect
English. By this time the Municipal Music Band of Ponta Delgarda had
started up first of all playing a medley of Glen Millar tunes which was
followed by various ballads sung by a guy with a terrific voice. We went
for a drink in a little cafe just off the square enjoying the music and
the ambience then wandered back down to stand in front of the band stand.
Exactly at 11pm and just as the band had finished a number, the fireworks
started to everyone’s’ surprise (we are all used to Portuguese maybe time
now) and so the whole crowd made its way down to the avenida to catch
sight of the display lighting up the sky. When the fireworks were over
we took a chance and went back to the bandstand in time to hear them start
up again and there followed another hour of great music, a lot of which we
knew and Lesley and I could jig about to.
It was a great end to a brilliant weekend in such a fantastic atmosphere
and after a night cap on Kodiak we made our way back to Andromeda and bed
feeling very happy and relaxed,so pleased to have been part of things.
It’s very clear that this is a festival for and by the people of San
Miguel and as tourists we were very fortunate to have been part of it. It
takes several months for the floats to be designed and built and must have
been a logistical challenge of epic proportions getting the animals in
line, let alone the numerous floats and as for the generosity of everyone
in these straightened times, that was un expected. Well worth visiting
San Miguel to get such a kind and warm welcome.
more later, Susan and Andrew S/V Andromeda
1-5 gazebo and band stand
the rest are the parade