Immigrants do not only come with their families and belongings when they arrive in the United States. They bring with them their cultures, languages, and traditions as well.
Immigrants do not only join and enhance the country’s work and labor force and expand entrepreneurship, business opportunities, and the consumer market (which are integral to the nation’s wealth creation). They also share their cultural traditions that enrich the multicultural fabrics and character of the towns, cities, counties, and communities where they live and raise their families.
In San Francisco, notice the many immigrants attending masses in Roman Catholic churches every late Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Imagine if there are no Filipinos, Mexicans, South and Central Americans parishioners who go and attend services at these churches. For sure many of these churches will be empty and they have to be closed.
St. Patrick’s Church in downtown San Francisco is a good example.
The church was originally an Irish parish. The face of the parish has changed and the church is now predominantly Filipino who are recent and new immigrants and who call South of Market as their new home and community. The old Irish parishioners who moved out of the community just come to worship on special occasions and holidays. Other non-immigrant churchgoers are usually tourists and visitors in San Francisco who find the church accessible for religious services and worship as it is a downtown area church.
Tourists and occasional visitors cannot sustain the parish’s religious, community rituals, and traditions. It is the devotion and dedication of many immigrant parishioners that sustain these rites and traditions at churches like St. Patrick’s.
Celebrations such as feasts of saints that are observed and practiced in the old country are also observed and noticed at churches like St. Patrick’s where immigrants worship.
For Filipinos, we celebrate the Sinulog and the Feast of Santo Nino which is popular among Cebuanos, Visayans, and Santo Nino devotees in the U.S. Then there are the celebrations to commemorate the Feast of San Lorenzo Ruiz in September and the Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan every May of each year.
Irish churchgoers still come to St. Patrick’s to hold their traditional feasts and services like the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day (May 17) on the Saturday of the week when St Patrick’s Day is celebrated. Filipino parishioners usually join Irish churchgoers to celebrate at the church’s social hall. Filipinos also celebrate a feast close to St. Patrick’s Day observance, the Feast of St. Joseph, which is observed every March 19th.
Immigrant fiestas or pistahan celebrations are also not limited to the feasts of patron saints as there are also celebrations and festivals that are non-religious in nature.
At SoMa Pilipinas, there is the annual Pistahan which is held every second weekend of August at the Yerba Buena Gardens and the Barrio Fiesta (Baryo Piyesta) which is held in May at the SoMa Recreation Center.
Pistahan and Barrio Fieasta are well attended and these celebrations have been sustained by the SoMa community for many years.
The Pistahan was an original project of the Filipino American Arts and Exposition (FAAE) and this explains why there are different pavilions that showcase Filipino culture, arts, seniors, and youth-oriented activities.
The Pistahan also features Filipino food and commercial vendors, corporate and media sponsors, and a parade that is held on Market Street in San Francisco. For entertainment, local and Philippine performers and celebrities brought in from the Philippines are usually featured during the celebration.
The Barrio Fiesta in South of Market is more community initiated and oriented. It is the coming together of the families and the community in SoMa to celebrate their neighborhood’s rich immigrant history and heritage.
This year the Barrio Fiesta will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at the Gene Friend Recreation Center on Sixth and Folsom Streets from 10am to 4pm.
What is unique about the Barrio Fiesta is that organizers do not only serve lechons (roasted pigs) but they actually showcase and demonstrate to the public how the pig is prepared and roasted.
Let us all give our support to these immigrant festivals and celebrations. Diversity makes this country and our communities richer!
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.
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