August 14, 2016

Photo Essay: ¡Viva la Fiesta! Santa Barbara's Historical Parade El Desfile Histórico

When a friend of mine asked if I wanted to take a day trip to Santa Barbara for the Old Spanish Days festival, I didn't hesitate to say "Yes!"

It's not that far north from LA, but driving there (and back home) can be a major drag with traffic.

But for this trip, we'd be taking a bus there, spending a couple of hours watching a historical parade, and then taking a bus back home.

El Desfile Histórico (the "Historical Parade") is a Santa Barbara tradition that's been running 92 years and counting.

It's more or less a  historical reenactment of the events leading to the development of Santa Barbara and Alta California as a whole, featuring flamenco dancers (led by this year's "Spirit of Fiesta," in white)...

...mariachi bands in charro outfits...

...and, of course, horses.

This is one of the biggest equestrian parades in the country...

...with over 600 horses featured... a variety of antique wagons—including a fire wagon and an authentic Wells Fargo stagecoach.

Even Smokey the Bear made an appearance to celebrate the Spanish founding of the City of Santa Barbara...

...named after Saint Barbara, the patron saint of mining and artillery (appropriate for the home of El Presidio).

Although it's called "Old Spanish Days," the weekend-long festival also pays tribute to the 25 years that the city (and all of California) was part of Mexico.

It's kind of a "Founder's Day" parade, replete with storytelling floats, historical and cultural costumes, and lots of horsemen.

Everyone—from those who are marching to those who are just watching from the sidelines—calls out, "¡Viva la Fiesta!"

The parade is where Santa Barbara's multiple identities come together as one...

...from its beginnings as Native Chumash tribal land and as a Spanish colony... the rancho period, when it was part of the California Republic under Mexican rule.

And, of course, as the city sometimes known as "the American Riviera," now in the 31st state of the U.S.

With all of that music wafting down Shoreline Drive and blowing out over the Pacific Ocean, the horses can't just stride, gallop, and trot.

They march along to the drumline.

They prance and dance, clip-clopping a percussive accompaniment to the strings and horns.

The horses themselves in the parade are a sight to see...

...ranging from Clydesdales to Palominos to Andalusians (or Pura Raza Española).

Some sport silver saddles and lovely, long manes.

Some even have their hooves painted.

The men on the horses' backs aren't just any ol' cowboys, either—they're vaqueros...

...demonstrating the California style of western riding and vaquero-style roping.

Now that I've been, I wonder why I haven't left my car at home and found some other way—be it a bus or a train—to get to Santa Barbara more often. I've thoroughly enjoyed its historic carousel, botanic garden, and delicious abandonment in the past.

I'll be back there soon to get a better look at the courthouse and mission and see what other treasures there are to dig up.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Horses of the Rose Parade
Photo Essay: The Marching Bands of the Rose Parade, 2016
Photo Essay: New Year's Day at the Rose Parade

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