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Manteca’s distinction: Playing host to two Portuguese festas

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Manteca’s distinction:  Playing host to two Portuguese festas

Chelsey Azevedo, who was the queen at the FESM Holy Ghost festa five years ago, helps prepare the meat for the sopas that will be served this weekend during the celebration.


POSTED July 13, 2013 2:10 a.m.

Manteca holds a special distinction when it comes to the annual celebration of the Portuguese Holy Ghost festa.

It hosts two of these popular religious and cultural events every year.

So if you miss the first one, you don’t have to fret. There’s another coming up the following month.

This year, the first Portuguese festa was held the second weekend of June at the MRPS Hall on Grant Street. This weekend, it’s the FESM Hall’s turn to host the celebration.

MRPS stands for Manteca-Ripon Pentecost Society. FESM is the Festa do Espirito Santo de Manteca.

How did it come about that Manteca plays host to two of the same celebrations every year? The answer to that lies in the history of both organizations. And while the two have their Portuguese Halls in Manteca, their beginnings are a story apart.

The MRPS is the older of the two organizations.

“The first (MRPS) originated out of Ripon, and then came to Manteca,” explained Jody Correia, who, with husband John, are the outgoing co-presidents of the MRPS this year. They filled the post for two years in a row.

The year was 1919 when MRPS was founded. The festa that they hosted in June was the 94th annual MRPS Holy Ghost celebration.

FESM is celebrating its 81st Holy Ghost festa this weekend. The organization was founded in Manteca in 1932.

Although there are two Portuguese organizations in town, Manteca has never been too small to accommodate both and the two festas always attract big crowds. But one thing that Jody Correia asserts is that the two organizations will never be a merger.

“They do help each other, but they are separate. They will never merge,” said Correia who was the MRPS queen during that organization’s 50th annual festa when her father was the president.

So, what distinguishes one from the other?

“One is more Old Country (FESM); the other one (MRPS) is more Americanized, most of (the members) were born here,” Correia said.

However, they are one and the same when it comes to their purpose, which is to “try and keep the customs” of their old country.

Today, many area residents are proud members of both organizations, like the Correias. John Correia was, at one time, the FESM Hall’s secretary. Even John’s late parents, Mazie and John, cooked the sopas for both hall’s festa celebrations. It’s a family tradition that has been passed on to John and Jody. And just as John started learning how to cook the sopas when he was just a very young boy helping his parents, now his children are doing the same. The family also does the sopas for the Oakdale Portuguese festa.

Portuguese Holy Ghost celebrations generally begin in May, right after the feast of the Pentecost, and end in October.

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