When the Solstice comes in June, the sun stands still for three days, hanging heavy in the sky. So says popular lore, whether of the nature-based beliefs of the northern Hemisphere – thus marking the height of summer, the year’s longest day, or of the Southern Hemisphere – defining the height of winter, the longest night.
The June Solstice is an important moment for many indigenous and agricultural communities in Latin America.
June, though, also presents three other major feasts in this part of the Americas, when Saint Anthony of Padua, John the Baptist, and Saints Peter and Paul are fêted. Some places honor these saints because he is the town’s santo patron (patron saint). In other regions, it is because of an occupational or strong cultural tie.
The celebrations to Catholic saints begin nine days before their feast days. These novenas may include processions, fireworks, special masses and other events.
Let’s take a look at the four big June fests in Latin America – and join in wherever you be. And if you can’t be travelling at this time, just click on the links to experience the continent’s celebrations.
San Antonio – 13 June
June 13 is the feast day of San Antonio (Saint Anthony of Padua).
San Antonio was a 13th century Franciscan monk and contemporary of the founder of the order, Saint Francis of Assisi (San Francisco). Saint Anthony was renowned for his knowledge of scripture, and to be able to teach them through simple words and deeds.
San Antonio is the patron saint of lost causes, lost people and of the poor. On his saint’s day, small loaves of bread are passed out after the mass. This symbolizes San Antonio’s devotion to the marginalized peoples of these lands.
The most intriguing celebration to San Antonio is Venezuela’s Tamunangue – or Sones de Negro – which has its roots in African culture. It is said to have originated with San Antonio himself, during his missionary work in northern Africa.
The tamunangue is a dedication to San Antonio performed in Venezuela’s Lara and Yaracuy states. Not only is it to honor him on his feast day, but also to fulfill a promise (promesa) to him for granting a good harvest, a family request (for wishes of healing, a new home, studies, etc.) or for love conquered.
The most famous traditions are in Barquisimeto, capital of Lara State, especially in the La Unión and Los Crepúsculos barrios. The eve of the saint’s feast day is celebrated with a serenade. The next day, mass is said at the parish church in La Unión. The procession then wends through the streets, with dancing and drumming until dusk. At night, the round of dances is performed.
The tamunangue consists of the Dedicatorio or Serenade to San Antonio, which includes the Batalla (Battle), performed by two men. This is to ask the Saint for permission to present the dances promised to him.
In these two poems, I recount the celebrations in northern Nicaragua and in Barquisimeto :
A FEAST DAY IN THE COUNTRY – AND THE CITY
To read my article about the fêting of San Antonio in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, please see:
“The Cult of the Afro-Venezuelan Saints”
Where to catch the celebrations to San Antonio :
- San Antonio Tlayacapan (Jalisco)
- Soconusco (Veracruz)
- Limones (Cosautlán, Veracruz)
- Simojovel (Chiapas)
- San Antonio Palopó (Solalá)
- San Antonio Suchitepéquez (Suchitepéquez)
- Senahú (Alta Verapaz)
- San Antonio La Paz (El Progreso)
- San Antonio Huista (Huehuetenango)
- Sayaxché (El Petén)
- San Antonio Aguas Calientes (Sacatepéquez)
- Acatenango (Chimaltenango)
- Purulhá (Baja Verapaz)
- Joateca (Morazán)
- Tela (Atlántida)
- Barquisimeto, Sanare, Tocuyo (Lara)
- Yaracuy State
- Huara, Maintilla, Pica (I Región de Tarapacá)
- Camar, Ollagüe, Socaire, Peine (II Región de Antofagasta)
- Putaendo (V Región de Valparaíso)
- Vilipulli (Chiloé), Huite (X Región de Los Lagos)
- Tartagal, San Antonio de los Cobres (Salta)
- M’burucuyá (Corrientes)
- Colonia S. Antonio (Formosa)
June Solstice – Inti Raymi
The June Solstice marks the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of winter in the Southern. The longest day and the longest night occur on the polar opposites of Planet Earth. In 2015, it will occur on Sunday, 21 June 2015, at 16:39 UTC. (To cipher the precise time where it will occur in your part of the world, please consult Time and Date.
In Latin American agricultural communities, the June Solstice marks the season to either beginning sowing the year’s crops or to begin the harvest, depending on the latitude.
The June Solstice is called Inti Raymi in the Andean nations of South America’s former Inca Empire. Manifestations of this celebration may be witnessed in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Often they are simple, down-to-earth fiestas. However, in Saqsayhuaman, near Cusco, Peru, it is a full-out theatrical performance.
The marking of the June solstice, however, isn’t confined to just South America. This celestial event is important to agricultural communities in Mesoamerica as well. At various archaeological sites in Mexico, the ancient sun ceremonies are still celebrated.
This photo essay of mine about Inti Raymi recounts a special celebration in Quito, Ecuador:
Where to catch the celebrations to June Solstice :
- Chichén Itzá (Quintana Roo)
- Mercado San Roque (Quito, Pichincha Province; 22 June)
- Cotacachi (Imbabura Province; 17-19 June)
- Cayambe, Sangolquí, Mitad del Mundo (Pichincha Province; 23 June)
- Cusco, Saqsayhuaman (Cusco Department)
- Tiwuanaku (La Paz)
- Tartagal (Salta)
- Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego)
San Juan – 24 June
The fiesta of San Juan Bautista is dedicated to John the Baptist. John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher of a new way of interpreting Jewish scripture, predating Jesus. He baptized Jesus in the river Jordan. His arrest led to his beheading at the request of Herodias, Herod’s daughter.
In many areas of Latin America, if a man is called John (Juan), his saint’s day will be celebrated on 24 June, although he may be named for another Saint John. San Juan is the campesinos’ patron saint. He helps guard against drought.
San Juan’s day is marked in a variety of ways throughout the continent. In Ecuador, the feast of the June Solstice merges with that of San Juan. Otavalo fêtes the saint for a week, culminating the event by throwing rocks at Iglesia San Juan. Calpi in Chimborazo Province celebrates with a rodeo. In Cotopaxi communities, it is the Fiesta de Moros. Wherever you go in this Andean country, expect dances with colorful masks and lots of fireworks.
In Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay, large bonfires (fogatas) are burned in the center of the village. Single women will do special ceremonies to find out about their future husbands.
In Venezuela, San Juan is a principle saint for the country’s African descendants. He is believed to bless waters and herbs used in healing. It is said that Simón Bolívar was a devotee of San Juan.
Venezuela’s biggest San Juan celebration is found in Curiepe (Estado de Miranda). At noon on 23 June, the church bells are tolled amidst the ceaseless rumblings of fireworks and drums. On the saint’s day, a mass is celebrated, followed by offerings, dancing and drumming. The following day, San Juan is lead through the streets to meet with the image of Juan Congo, an African “saint.”
Where to catch the celebrations to San Juan :
- San Juan
- Baní, San Juan de la Maguana, Vicente Noble, Barahona, La Descubierta
- Jimaní, El Cupey(Puerto Plata)
- Playa de Güibia (Santo Domingo)
- Chenalhó (Chiapas)
- San Juan Bautista (Suchitepéquez)
- Usumatlán (Zacapa)
- San Juan Chamelco (Alta Verapaz)
- San Juan Comalapa (Chimaltenango)
- Amatitlán, San Juan Sacatepéquez (Guatemala)
- San Juan Atitlán (Solalá)
- San Juan Ixcoy (Huehuetenango)
- Olintepeque, San Juan Ostuncalco (Quetzaltenango)
- El Estor (Morales)
- San Juan Cotzal (Quiché)
- San Juan Alotenango (Sacatepéquez)
- San Juan La Laguna (Solalá)
- Osicala, Sociedad (Morazán)
- Monte San Juan (Cuscatlán)
- San Juan Nonualco (La Paz)
- Nahuizalco (Sonsonate)
- Trujillo (Colón)
- San Juan de Limay (Estelí)
- San Juan de Oriente, San Juan de la Concha (Masaya)
- San Juan del Sur (Rivas)
- Telpaneca, San Juan del Río Coco (Madriz)
- Ciudad Darío (Matagalpa)
- Cinco Pinos (Chinandega)
- San Francisco Libre (Managua)
- San Juan del Norte (Río San Juan)
- San Juan de Jinotega (Jinotega)
- Chitré (Herrera)
- Aguadulce (Coclé)
- Curipe (Miranda)
- Patanemo (Carabobo)
- Agua Negra, Farriar and Palmargo (Yaracuy)
- Otavalo (Imbabura)
- Tabacundo, Sangolqui (Pichincha)
- Guamote, Calpi (Chimborazo)
- Latacunga, San Juan de Guaytacama (Cotopaxi)
- Iquitos (Loreto)
- Pucallpa (Ucayali)
- Tarapoto, Juanjui, Rioja, Moyobamba (San Martín)
- Tingo María, Aucayacu ( Leoncio Prado)
- Puerto Maldonado
- Ticnamar, Camarones, Timar, Putre (XV Región de Arica y Parinacota)
- Huaviña (I Región de Tarapacá)
- Socaire, Caspana, Toconce (II Región de Antofagasta)
- Salamanca (IV Región de Coquimbo)
- Curacautín , Puerto Saavedra, Temuco (IX Región de la Araucanía)
- Chiloé (XRegión de los Lagos)
- Puerto Natales (XII Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena)
- Puerto Aysén (XI Región de Aisén)
- Tartagal (Salta)
- Cochinoca (Jujuy)
- Fiesta de San Juan en Cachoeira (Bahia)
San Pedro y San Pablo – 29 June
29 June is the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul (San Pedro y San Pablo), the patron saints of fishermen.
San Pablo was a fisherman by trade and one of the original disciples of Jesus. He was the founder of the Christian Church in Rome and the first pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
Saint Paul was born Saul of Tarsus. His occupation with the Roman Empire was the persecution of Christians. According to Scripture, he experienced a visit from the spirit of Jesus which led to his conversion. Saint Paul became a major proponent of Christianity, and much of the surviving New Testament was written by him.
On 29 June, in coastal towns throughout Latin America, San Pablo and San Peter are paraded around the harbor in flower-festooned boats. The celebrations also include music, dancing and other cultural events. The faithful petition Peter and Paul for plentiful fishing. As a sea-faring nation, it is unsurprising that the full length of Chile salutes these saints.
San Pedro and San Pablo are also saluted in highland villages in Guatemala, Colombia and Ecuador, where rain is the more common request to the saints. For some villages, only one or the other saint is fêted, being the patron saint of that community.
In some areas, the feast day of Saint Juan (24 June) merges with those of Pedro and Pablo. In Mexico, Paraguay and Colombia, 29 – 30 June are national holidays.
To view my photo-essay, Fiesta de San Pedro y San Pablo, please see:
Where to catch the celebrations to San Pedro y San Pablo :
- Tzimol (Chiapas)
- San Pedro Sacatepéquez (Sacatepéquez)
- San Pedro La Laguna (Solalá)
- San Pedro Carchá (Alta Verapaz)
- Yepocapa (Chimaltenango)
- Chuarrancho, San Pedro Sacatepéquez (Guatemala)
- Almolonga (Quetzaltenango)
- Corinto, Sensembra (Morazán)
- San Rafael Cedros, San Pedro Perulapán (Cuscatlán)
- Teotepeque (La Libertad)
- San Pedro Masahuat, San Pedro Nonualco (La Paz)
- Caluco (Sonsonate)
- San Pedro y San Pablo (Villanueva, Chinandega)
- Cuidad Darío (Matagalpa)
- Diría (Granada)
- El Jícaro, Mozonte (Nueva Segovia)
- San Pedro de Lóvago (Chantales)
- Puerto Cabezas (RAAN)
- Jinotepe (Carazo)
- San Pablo, Mahates (Bolívar)
- Neiva (Huila)
- Jongivito (Nariño)
- Esmeraldas (Barrio El Panecillo) (Esmeraldas Province)
- Crucita, Manta, Jaramijó, Montecristi (Manabí)
- San Pedro y San Pablo, Ayangue, Santa Rosa (Santa Elena Province)
- Puerto Bolívar (El Oro Province)
- Checa, Licán, Cayambe, Pomasqui, Ayora, Tabacundo (Pichincha)
- Pimampiro, Cotacachi, Cayambe (Imbabura)
- Alausí (Chimborazo)
- La Magdalena (Bolívar)
- Chimbote (Huáraz)
- Chorrillos and Callao (Lima)
- Ilo (Moquegua)
- Ichu (Puno)
- Arica (Región XV Arica y Parinacota)
- Pisagua (Región I Tarapacá)
- Valparaíso (Región V Valparaíso)
- Puerto Cisnes (Región XI Aysén)
- Tucumán (Tucumán)
- Corrientes (Corrientes)