The big brass comes out to kick off the parade after mass at St. Agnus.
Point Loma forms the the northern edge of San Diego Bay. Until not long ago, it was the tuna fishing capital of the world, with a huge fleet that would run deep into the tropical Pacific to catch the giant fish. The Portuguese came ran the industry here, and settled in Point Loma. They came in the 1930s and worked here on the ships and canneries until the 1990s Bumblebee, Starkist, and Chicken of the Sea were all based here. In the old days you could see the shortwave antennae on top of the houses where women could talk to their husbands at sea on the radiotelephone, and working the tuna fleet was one of the more lucrative jobs to be had. The Portuguese controlled the tuna industry in San DIego, the Italians the anchovy industry out of central California, and the Croatians the fishing fleets and port in Los Angeles.
Parish priest greets a commander
There are still residual immigrant communities like Point Loma's throughout California. Pole fishing in the 40s http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp_Rs75-5vI&feature=related&fmt=18
In the 1970s three were a hundred ships in the fleet. These were purse seiners with nets over a mile long and hundreds of feet deep. They were huge, ocean-going vessels, the larger ones having a helicopter to fly ahead and spot the schools, and a second, smaller ship to drag the net a mile or more around the then huge schools, encircling them. It was always a big deal here when one of the big ships would return after months at sea, families would be reunited and fishermen would return with a year's salary in just a couple months.
The problem was that at this massive scale, the fishing was having a big impact on dolphins.
Most of the big tuna families are represented, it's sort of a combination of a beauty contest, prom, coming of age parties, and everything else that someone is crowned for all at once. Pretty much all the kids get some kind of title and crown.
In the 60s, hundreds of thousands would drown because they swam with the tuna schools and would be held under by the seine. In the 70s, techniques were developed to reduce the impact, some as simple as dipping down the top of the net to let the dolphin pods hop over and out. But it was still a huge problem, there were still drownings. In the 1980s the number of dolphin's killed was reduced to very low numbers, but finally the three major tuna packers decided to move overseas to avoid the "dolphin safe tuna" laws. The fishing industry here came to an abrupt halt. The fleets were relocated to Guam and Samoa, and now the captains fly out to the islands to run the boat, although most remain in Point Loma. The dolphin-safe laws had mixed results. The tuna sold in the US is now almost all certified to have been caught with no loss of dolphins.
Portuguese marching bands from around the country
But, the fleets now supply mostly foreign markets and work outside of the jurisdiction of the law, so are largely uncontrolled in many regions. The American tuna industry was just too slow to react, although they did innovate the techniques to reduce dolphin take to near zero. It was just too late by the time they finally came into compliance.
The festa in Point Loma is based on Santo Amaro's day, but is an excuse for the Portuguese from all around the region, and around the country to get together once a year. There are parades of hundreds of people dressed in gowns, suits, and ethnic costumes, usually starting after mass and St. Agnes Church (home of Our Lady of Tuna, a Virgin Mary looking over a model of a tuna boat) and proceeding down Portugal Avenue to Portuguese Hall.
Floats of various biblical scenes
Endless festa queens and kings and counts and queen's escorts and princesses are voted in from among the children of the old tuna families and community leaders. I think just about everyone gets some kind of title at some point. It looks like the biggest prom in the world with nervous guys in ill-fitting suits escorting girls in huge, puffy chiffon and lace gowns down the streets of Point Loma.
The festa actually goes for a whole week, with the 3rd weekend in May being the peak of the activities. This isn't some small-time neighborhood festival, it's a full blown national event with thousands of people attending. It's definitely something so see if you ever come to San Diego in May, one of the only real cultural events we have in the city!