Get to Know this Year’s Fiesta Luminaries
Become Acquainted with this Year’s Luminaries La Presidente, the Spirits, and Saint Barbara
By Terry Ortega | August 3, 2022
Old Spanish Days Fiesta 2022
Maria Cabrera, born in Colombia, moved to S.B. from the San Fernando Valley in 1983 with her husband, Francisco, and her daughter, Marisol. Her son, Pablo, was born in 1984. She has been a part of S.B.’s Fiesta fabric through her family’s involvment with three different dance groups, watching her daughter’s performances, and being a volunteer for 30 years. The role of La Presidente meant that Maria was part of this year’s entire planning, as opposed to just a few events. The challenges included “inventing the wheel again” in a post-COVID world, such as the new parade route for El Desfile Histórico (The Historical Parade) on Friday that goes along Cabrillo Boulevard from Castillo Street to Calle Puerto Vallarta, a route that was last used in 1973; as well as El Desfile De Los Niños (Children’s Parade) on Saturday, beginning near the corner of Cabrillo Boulevard and Garden Street to Calle Puerto Vallarta. The theme she chose for this year, Todos Juntos en Familia (All Together as a Family), for her means that, “Due to COVID, we missed each other’s company, and Fiesta is the time when you become family with those around you.” Maria says, “Fiesta is back! A little different, but worth the wait.” Always on the job, she would like you to be aware that Fiesta is “in need of volunteers, vendors, and merchants … we cannot do this by ourselves; we need each other!”
Saint Barbara 2022
Who is Saint Barbara you ask? She is regarded as the patron saint of architects, builders, stonemasons, and sailors — very fitting for the seaside town of S.B. The organization dedicated to the preservation of California history, Native Daughters of the Golden West, Reina Del Mar Parlor 126, has been selecting the Saint Barbara since 1926. Fourth-generation Californian Lynn Kirst attended Bishop Diego High School and ultimately graduated from USC with an undergraduate and graduate degree in art history and historic preservation — a perfect fit for her role as Saint Barbara. With a fulfilling career and 31 years with her late husband, Lynn has many interests, such as travel, art and antiques, bocce, music, opera, and her friends. She is honored to have been selected as this year’s Saint Barbara, saying, “It isn’t a contest or anything one tries out for; the selection process is secret.
“It all seemed like a dream until the first time I tried on the traditional crimson cape and golden crown,” she said. “It was then that the importance of carrying on this amazing tradition became a sobering reality … and being a Christian adds an additional layer of meaning for me personally.” In the past, Lynn rode her horse in the parade and rode in the S.B. Historical Museum’s carriage. This year, Lynn will ride on her very own float, “reviving the traditions that celebrate our heritage.” Lynn would like the community to join in by dressing in Fiesta wear to “pump up the atmosphere for everyone — residents and visitors alike.” She wants to remind you not to miss the Flor y Canto event on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Courthouse Sunken Gardens to “see traditional dances of early California with live narration” and to tell all that “everyone is family during Fiesta in Santa Barbara!”
Spirit of Fiesta 2022
This year’s Spirit of Fiesta, 19-year-old Tara Mata, has been dancing since she was 5 years old. Growing up in S.B. meant that she became aware of the amazing traditions and the importance of this annual celebration. The flamenco style of dance “has always been my form of expression. I was pretty shy growing up … and dancing flamenco allows me to connect with the music and the audience in such a unique way.” Tara has always looked up to the Spirits, and being chosen this year fuels her to be the best role model and dancer she can be.
To say Tara has spirit is an understatement, as she recently graduated from SBCC with four Associate of Arts degrees while holding down jobs as a dance instructor, a mathematics tutor, and a server. Give a shout-out and wave to Tara as she leads the El Desfile Histórico on Friday. Tara is the perfect ambassador to bring people together, and she is excited to be a part of the return of a full Fiesta, all thanks to Old Spanish Days, the city, and volunteers. She “cannot wait to reconnect with friendly faces, meet new ones, and embrace the theme, Todos Juntos en Familia.”
Junior Spirit of Fiesta 2022
Layla Gocong, a 9-year-old 3rd-grader at Crane Country Day School and this year’s Junior Spirit of Fiesta, is excited to bring joy to the community through her dancing and let you know she’s worked hard for you. “This style of dance is my favorite because … you will see my dance abilities and my emotions all in one,” she said, adding, “The music is so beautiful, especially when it’s live.”
It seems the Junior Spirit has something in common with the Spirit besides dancing; it turns out Layla loves math and solving hard problems. Wow, STEM and the arts — these two spirits have it all. Say hi to Layla as she leads El Desfile De Los Niños up the boulevard on Saturday. Layla hopes to make you proud, and she can’t wait to meet you!