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Holy Mackerel! Festa do Chicharro

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Regardless of the origin of the expression, "holy mackerel," it’s what came to mind when I saw hundreds of chicharros (blue jack macerel) cooking on the barbecue Sept. 10 at the Portuguese Hall on Pocket Road.


The Sacramento Portuguese Holy Spirit Society (SPHSS) held its first Festa do Chicharro.



 Fishing for chicharro plays an important role in the life of Portuguese villagers in the Azores islands, especially the island of Pico.

Mural of an Azorean Village

As a daughter of Dutch immigrants married to an Azorean immigrant, I found this Portuguese celebration of the end of summer and the harvest fascinating and heart warming.

While the men barbecued the chicharro outside, women were busy in the kitchen preparing an assortment of dishes, including baratas cozidas (boiled potatoes) with molho cru (vinegar and oil sauce), caldo de peixe (fish soup), salada de alface (green salad) and pao (bread).

Fried mackerel was also on the menu.

On this mild September evening, I enjoyed peering into a model Azorean kitchen with traditional tablecloth and pottery.

 I marveled at the colorful, intricately detailed costumes.

And my heart swelled at the sight of the Azores flag displayed to the right of the U.S. and Portuguese flags.

In 1990, my husband introduced me to the island of Flores (Flowers), where he was born. It is one of the smallest of the nine Azores islands, known for its deep valleys, high peaks, lagoons, crystal-clear streams and hydrangeas.

In 2009, I, in turn, introduced my husband to Holland, the land of tulips, sand dunes, dikes, windmills and my ancestors.

Our children are a melding of two cultures, reminders of what unifies us rather than sets us apart.

I commend the SPHSS for keeping the traditions of their mother country alive.

For a calendar of future events at the SPHSS Hall, go to Sacramento Portuguese Holy Spirit Society.

For more information about the Portuguese of this region, visit the Portuguese Historical and Cultural Society (PHCS).

To visit Margaret Duarte’s blog, go to Enter the Between.

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