Fiesta: A San Antonio Tradition
When one hears the word “fiesta” one immediately thinks about an extravagant celebration or a big party with dancing and singing and parades. Merriam-Webster defines “fiesta” as a saint’s day celebrated in Spain, Latin America, and the Philippines with processions and dances. Did you know that there is also Fiesta in San Antonio?
According to Fiesta-SA, Fiesta San Antonio started in 1891 as a one-parade event as a way to honor the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. Today it is one of the nation’s premier festivals and is considered the Party with a Purpose. Fiesta celebrates the diverse and rich culture of San Antonio while being a fund raising event as well. The Fiesta San Antonio Commission has been in charge of the city-wide celebration since 1959 and there are over 75,000 volunteers annually. Statistics show that around 3 and a half million people go to Fiesta San Antonio yearly!
Different from Mardi Gras
Fiesta seems like Mardi Gras but they have distinct differences. Mardi Gras is the huge parade and feast that celebrates the coming Lenten meat fast, with origins in Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries. From here, the traditional revelry of “Boeuf Gras,” or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies according to Mardi Gras New Orleans. It goes on to relay that the Mardi Gras Carnival began in 1781 and by the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras.
My San Antonio reports that Mardi Gras differs not only in size but also in its moral theology. “Fiesta is one grand family picnic. Mardi Gras an orgy. Fiesta is beer. Mardi Gras is gin … or vodka … or rum … or all the above. At Fiesta, men call out to young women on floats to “show us your shoes!” At Mardi Gras, men exhort women to “show us your … Let’s just say they set their sights somewhat higher. At Fiesta, the young women oblige. So do many of the young women at Mardi Gras.”
What sets Fiesta apart?
The annual Fiesta employs a Mexican theme and celebrates the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto where Texas won their independence. What makes Fiesta different is the city itself. San Antonio used to be like New Orleans, with guns and plenty of whiskey and riotous behavior. After WWII, San Antonio underwent a cultural transformation and began to focus on building and establishing families. Fiesta itself is a civic celebration unlike the religious Mardi Gras, and the people of San Antonio look forward to the celebration yearly.
Fiesta San Antonio 2017 began at 6:00 AM on Friday, 21 April and ended on Sunday, 30 April.