Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Patron Saint Festivals in the Americas



The Lavagem do Bonfim festival in Salvador, Bahia. Photo: Ramon “Tonito“ Zayas/GFR Media/AP

In Latin America, the party doesn’t end between Christmas and Carnival; the first three months of the year are also dedicated to numerous fiestas patronales, or patron saint festivals. The celebrations reflect a common Catholic heritage, but also incorporate elements of the region’s African and Indigenous roots.

In Puerto Rico, the merriment kicks off after New Year’s, with 16 patron saint festivals between January and April, such as the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, a street festival founded in 1954 that includes hundreds of artisans, live music and dance performances. Farther south, Brazilians in Salvador, Bahia, draw on their African roots in the Lavagem do Bonfim (Washing of Bonfim), on January 15 to honor Bahia’s patron saint.

Copacabana, Bolivia, boasts one of the most colorful venerations of the Virgen de la Candelaria, known as Nuestra Señora de Copacabana, on February 2.

While the celebrations differ, wherever you find yourself in the region in the next few months, expect plenty of food, music and fun!

For a list of some of the other noteworthy celebrations, see www.americasquarterly.org/patronsaints.

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