The Filipino Community does not let solemnity interfere with a joyful celebration of a spiritual holiday. I’ve written about last year’s Santa Cruzan here, and the year before, here. I went into some of the customs of the holiday more in depth in those previous posts.
God, Gold and Glory was why Spanish colonized the new world, at least that was what the Sisters of Charity taught me in Grammar School, although later study of the Spanish empire indicated the order of the three G’s should be revised. But they certainly spread their Catholicism and Santa Cruzan festivals accompanied the conversions; yet the Philippines seem to be the only former Spanish colony that carries on this tradition, giving it a distinctive Pacific stamp.
The Month of May is the Month of Mary, the Blessed Virgin, Mother of our lord, and Santa Cruzan coincides with the Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May) festival, which concludes the Month, which is why fresh flowers adorned the many statues that were part of the procession. Each statue represented a different Blessed Mother incarnation.
Jersey City has a strong Filipino community – part of Grove Street is named Manila Avenue – and while Santa Cruzan is a celebration of the culture, it is really a multicultural event. The different Blessed Mother statues come from an array of cultures.
The weather was mostly sunny, summer-ry. A Street fair with noticeably more vendors than last year’s event took up much of Second Street east of Erie. In addition to the authentic Philippine cuisine, and some of the usual sellers of knick-knacks, crafts, t-shirts, face painting and temporary tattoos, I noticed more corporate marketing than I ever saw at a Street Fair. I guess their presence is a combination of them wanting to reach the lucrative J.C. market and street fair organizers needing more money in the coffers. Are those vendors any worse than the folks handing out mayoral fliers for the 2013 race? Since Santa Cruzan is sort of the unofficial start of the Summer Street Fair season, I imagine this trend will only escalate. At the end of 2nd street the Department of Public Works Mobile Band shell was stationed. At one point a guy and three young women led the crowd in a new dance. The fellow said they were filming a video. Then the women went into the crowd and gave out yellow tote bags; it was a sponsorship deal.
The festivities began with a festive mass at St. Mary’s church. It was the rare religious service that was solemn and fun; sweet voices and strumming guitars delivered the sacred songs and then the mass concluded with the procession where the full pageantry of the holiday was on display. It was a multi-generational extravaganza; women of all ages wore stunning summer gowns flowing with taffeta and lace. A man played Immaculate Mary on the Accordion. The procession went north on Erie then South on Manila, back to the church, the street fair and the annual multigenerational, multicultural party the Filipino community throws for Jersey City.