St. Barbara 2016: Christine Herrera
This will be the 90th year of St. Barbara appearing as part of Old Spanish Days, a tradition began in 1926 by the Native Daughters of the Golden West’s Reina del Mar Parlor No. 126. This year, the parlor, which was founded in 1901, selected their member Christine Herrera to portray the patron saint of Santa Barbara.
Who’s St. Barbara? This saint, for whom the Santa Barbara Channel was named by explorer Sebastian Vizcaino in 1602, is the patroness of protection from lightning and calamity, and is revered by artillerymen and mariners. Legend has it that she was martyred by her father for her Christian beliefs in the 3rd century somewhere near Turkey or Lebanon, but the 1,700-year-old details are a little spotty.
Who’s Christine Herrera? Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Herrera is a ninth-generation Californian and the daughter of Louis and Barbara Herrera. She attended Franklin Elementary School, S.B. Junior High School, S.B. High School, and SBCC, works today at Cottage Hospital, and is the financial secretary of the parlor, which she joined four years ago. Her mother, sister, cousins, and aunts are all members as well.
What her background? Herrera is a descendant of Jose Francisco Ortega, the first commander of Santa Barbara’s Presidio, which was founded in 1782. He came to the region during the 1769 Portola expedition, and eventually was given the land grant for Refugio Rancho. Herrera is also related to the Olivera, Ruiz, Pico, and Arrellanes families.
Her Fiesta experience? Involved in Old Spanish Days since childhood, Herrera participated in the children’s parade and was a flower girl.
What’s she riding? During El Desfile Historico, Herrera will ride as St. Barbara in one of the few horse-drawn floats, which has been sponsored by the parlor since 1926.
What’s she wearing? During the Fiesta Pequena at the Mission, each night at Las Noches de Ronda at the Courthouse, and during the parade, Herrera will wear the saint’s traditional white gown, scarlet cape, and golden crown, and be carrying the martyr’s palm frond and a golden chalice. For social events, you’ll see her in a Spanish-style white lace gown and a white mantilla.
Who are the Native Daughters of the Golden West? This statewide fraternal organization of California-born women was founded in 1886, and contributes to historic preservation, veterans’ welfare, conservation, California mission restoration, the N.D.G.W. Children’s Foundation charity, patriotic activities, and college scholarships. Reina del Mar Parlor No. 126 was chartered on April 20, 1901.