Over two weeks of partying to celebrate the feast day of Quibdo’s patron saint San Pacho will kick off September 20th in Colombia’s capital of the western Choco department.
Saint Francis of Assisi is affectionately known as San Pacho by the people of Quibdo, who will celebrate him from September 20th to October 5th in a colorful fiesta that shows the inseparable intertwining of the Catholic and African religions.
The festival was declared a National Cultural Heritage in 2005 and specifically recognizes its rich Afro-American culture. The streets of the city are decorated with banners and flags and heave with parades full of brightly colored costumes showing clear African and Caribbean influence, with brass and drum bands following throughout.
Each of the city’s 12 “barrios” or neighborhoods erects an altar in its center with candles and images of the saint. Over the course of the celebrations which include a “disco tribute” to the saint, each barrio will take responsibility for the festivities and will host the party with exhibitions and performances, music, dancing and food.
Huge pots of sancocho, a stew made with seven different kinds of meat (four of which are possibly from pig) in the Choco department, cook in the barrios to provide sustenance for the festival-goers.
After two weeks of eating “seven-meat-sancocho,” drinking and dancing, the city wakes up to silence on October 4th, the Saint’s Day. The music is turned off and the prayers begin while a massive procession of worshippers parade the saint throughout the city.
St. Francis has been worshipped on the Pacific Coast of Colombia since the 1640s when a group of Franciscan missionaries arrived with the intention of finding gold and perhaps converting the Indians to Catholicism.
The full festival program can be found here.