The Mercado del San Agustín in Tucson was the location of the 15th annual El Dia de San Juan Fiesta on June 24, 2012 beginning at 5:00 p.m.
People gathered in the open space of the Mercado close to where the Santa Cruz River once flowed. A makeshift horse corral was present for the duration of the festival. Seeing horses romping around in the temporary structure was initially surprising but definitely welcome.
Led by clerical representatives, at least one of which was Catholic, the statue of San Juan was processed through the crowd to the front stage where blessings for the festival were given and received. Traditionally costumed riders on horseback brought up the procession.
The first blessing was definitively Catholic in origin. Incense was swung in a censor as holy water was sprinkled on the participants. The festival goers had the opportunity to come up and be blessed. Some of them took advantage of that opportunity.
A Mr. Hernandez, who wore the vestments of Christianity, offered up a meditative moment where the crowd was asked to picture energy in the form of light moving through the body and into the ground to give thanks for the time in this sacred space.
A local government representative spoke in English and in Spanish. The crowd was introduced to La Reina de al Fiesta, longtime West side resident, Josefina Lizárraga, a small business owner and community volunteer. She thanked all attendees and mentioned that one goal is to build a permanent chapel for San Juan.
A Native American troupe performed an Aztec dance and blessing. Beautiful headdresses and traditional looking garb along with drumming, singing and other percussion elements made a very effective display. The blessing was given in an ancient language.
Dancers, singers and entertainers performed the rest of the night. Music, food and information booths were all in full swing.
The festival honors the Saints Day of St. John the Baptist and has been practiced in this area for over a century. Local tradition states that it is St. John who brings the rains, so the festival now coincides with the beginning of the monsoon season in this area.
Note the use of the word “chubasca” on the sign. It’s the Spanish word for a squall that typically shows up on the Pacific side of Mexico. Some time ago, there was a faint attempt locally to use this word instead of monsoon. For some reason, it didn’t quite catch on and the rainy season continues with the old naming convention of monsoon.
Did we ever get rain? A little bit. Maybe there needs to be a San Juan day more than annually.