Celebrated each year since the S.D.E.S. (Society of the Divine Holy Spirit) of Alvarado was established in 1926 in Union City, the event features a parade fit for a queen—or several queens, in this case.
The procession was made up of different Portuguese groups from around the Bay Area and state. Each group was represented with a queen and side maidens dressed in elaborate gowns.
The tradition can be traced to Portugal’s devotion to the Holy Spirit and to Portuguese folklore dating back to the 1300s, according to Carlos Garcia, a past S.D.E.S. president.
In Garcia’s version of the tradition, the generous Queen Isabel of Portugal would sneak food to the poor, much to the king’s dismay. One time, the king caught the queen trying to hide bread for the poor in a bag. When asked what was inside, she told the king it was flowers. According to legend, when the queen opened the bag, the bread had turned into flowers, Garcia said.
Keeping the Queen’s tradition of generosity, the S.D.E.S. festival features free food for everyone.