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Manteca Ripon Pentecost Society: The social platform that reflects real world
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Mark Zuckerberg once proclaimed Facebook wasn’t about making money but was about bringing people together.

Internal memos from years ago that surfaced last month show that wasn’t his non-public thoughts at the time. The fact his net worth today hovers around $50 billion and Facebook itself is worth more than $470 billion along with the tentacles that Facebook has inserted into personal postings to harvest data for sale plus their less-than-stellar effort to rein in dark impulses they helped bring to the Internet makes Zuckerberg’s words ring hollow today.

If Zuckerberg wants to see an example of a social platform that brings people together, helps build a community, fosters understanding, and does so without the need to make billions of dollars that requires one to bury their youthful idealism while standing the test of time then he might want to take a look at the Manteca Ripon Pentecost Society.

For a century the MRPS has served as not just a social network for its members but it has been the “platform” for countless endeavors via its social halls that raise funds for community projects as well as a venue for people to celebrate weddings and more.

On Saturday for the 100th time the MRPS introduced officers and queens. It is part of a centuries old Portuguese thanksgiving tradition that was founded on events — secular and by nature — that divine intervention helped along to break the suffering of hundreds of thousands from a devastating drought in Portugal nearly 700 years ago.

It led to the formation of Holy Ghost celebrations that literally involves breaking bread — ok, sharing soggy bread — as part of Portuguese sopas served at no cost to all comers during the annual event.

If you don’t think you wouldn’t be wrapped in warmth at a festa even if you aren’t Portuguese you are sadly mistaken.

One of the biggest surprises moving to Manteca 28 years ago was the fact there were two Holy Ghost organizations here — the MRPS and the Festa do Espirito Santo de Manteca (FESM). Their social halls are literally within a block of each other in downtown Manteca.

I grew up in Lincoln where the Placer County Holy Ghost celebration may have been a Portuguese tradition but it had morphed into a four-day community celebration with a carnival at McBean Park and the biggest parade of the year that had crowds lining 11 blocks. It did not just involve the queens from the local festas and those throughout the north state as well as the Portuguese band. Entries included the high school and grammar school bands, Scouting groups, antique vehicles, equestrian entries and more. People — even if they were not Portuguese — used the Holy Ghost Festival to stage family reunions that literally took place in front yards along the parade route with friends and strangers motioned to join as they strolled down sidewalks.

My biggest thrill as a seventh grader was marching with the Glen Edwards School band while playing the Sousaphone. I then  dashed home to change and then headed back down to the park. I’d meet up with friends to ride the Hammer, Spin-a-Wheel and other diversions plus try my luck at the dime toss and horse races. It was mandatory, of course, to go with your family to enjoy the one thing that I truly miss since forsaking meat 33 years ago — sopas and the treat our next door neighbor Elsie Silva would make for the Holy Ghost celebration and Christmas, enchiladas made with spicy Portuguese touches.

There were nearly a dozen outdoor sittings for the sopas that people waited in line for hours.

Elsie’s task for the community sopa effort was to pick mint leaves from bushes that had been planted for that purpose along the Auburn Ravine that ran along the park.

My fond memories of the Holy Ghost celebration were boosted in part from the fact we lived three doors down from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. A smaller morning parade — much like what the FESM and MRPS do today to take the crown and queen to St. Anthony’s Catholic Church — brought that year’s officers and queens accompanying the crowns from the small building housing an altar at the park to the church. Given the small size of the church, those who could not fit in during the blessing and mass would end up in neighbors’ yards under stately sycamore trees for a respite from the late morning sun on the Sunday when the festa took place ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

The Holy Ghost celebration brought people together from all backgrounds to share the latest joys in their lives, to laugh, to reminisce, and to share real face time. Events such as Holy Ghost  celebrations and organizations such as the MRPS are the real deal when it comes to social platforms.

A few weeks before he was installed as the 100th MRPS President, Chris Teicheria shared his childhood memories as a tyke scurrying around the MRPS Hall with his friends during gatherings while their folks mingled. “I literally grew up in this hall,” Teicheria said.

If his family had been able to post one of his big memories as a 7-year-old on Facebook at the time — being sent by his father Richard behind the bar to get him a beer — rest assured they would have been widely condemned from Boston to Guam from complete strangers weighing in on parenting skills, alcohol and such blissfully ignorant of context.

The virtual socializing that Facebook has inspired has taken the gossip mongers and those who have a bitter edge for whatever reason out of the shadows to a point they overshadow everything we do with instant commentary or an attempt at witty political commentary in 144 characters or less.

Chris could have been blackballed from jobs as an adult because the bowels of the Internet that never forgets had a picture of him fetching a beer as a 7-year-old. Lucky for him his employment has been by farmers who have no time for such social media nonsense and comedy clubs where the self-anointed judges, juries, and executioners that live their lives through bytes condemning people near and far from the comfort of their living rooms would probably have a politically correct instilled stroke from what utterances come from the stage.

And if you need verification that all is really right with the world despite the 24/7 gloom and doom du jour brought to you by the social platforms that are built by virtual media and aren’t a place where you can have the pleasure of engaging people face to face instead of by FaceTime, all you had to do was look around the hall Saturday.

There was a new generation of 7-year-olds — both fidgety boys like Chris was once trying to stand straight while holding flags while the Portuguese and United States national anthems were sung and girls like Mabel Machado once was dressed in their finest mesmerized by the tradition unfolding before them.