by Celeste Lafourcade
Twelve bomb volleys separated the most awaited day from the rest of the year. As the clock struck 8 o’clock and national anniversaries commemorated Columbus’s arrival in America, people prepared to dedicate the day to the patron Virgin, the one who He appeared to Santiago the Apostle on a pillar in Zaragoza (Spain) and whose dedication gave the party its name.
Originated in the beginning as a purely religious holiday, It didn’t take long over the years to gradually incorporate entertainment-related spices that eventually turned the patron saint’s celebrations into a more social than ecclesiastical event.
The communions, the hot chocolate, the premiere dresses, the lapel handkerchiefs They marked the rhythm of a day that forged more than any other the identity of the people of Pilar as a people.
However, although From the first half of the 20th century, patron saints began to adopt elements of popular festivals, the history of the celebrations begins much earlier.
According to the first written records and the printed image inviting the solemn blessings of the present temple, scheduled for October 12, 1856 (although they eventually took place on Christmas Eve of that year), it can be safely confirmed that the celebrations are at least 166 years old.
However, oral tradition suggests this the homage to the patron saint even dates back to the 18th century, given that as early as 1729 Maria Cabezas, Descendant of the group of Aragonese soldiers who, in 1670, built the first fort in what is now the city of Manzanares, carrying with them an image of the Virgen del Pilar, he requested permission to worship at the said dedication. Five years after Pope Innocent XIII gave a liturgical office for the Virgen del Pilar for October 12.
the return to the dog
Well into the 1970s, as evidenced by the yellowed stamps still in books and cupboards, October 12 was the date set for all Pilar children educated in the Catholic religion to receive their first communion .
After the dozen thunders, with pompous dresses for the girls and the inimitable white ribbon on the arm of the boys, they prepared to perform the third sacrament. Pictures of severity, parental fervor and the length of the first minutes later gave way to ritual of chocolate with tables offered by the Instituto Madre del Divino Pastor who at the time was working in Via Belgrano.
Meanwhile, in the central square, already installed since dawn, hawkers offered food and entertainment for coins to families who, taking advantage of the holiday, went out to walk the dog.
“At noon we came home, had a quick lunch and went back to the square, the weather was very nice, we met all the neighbors,” recalls neighbor and collector Armando D’Auria, that among his photographs he keeps a few snapshots of the day the town went out on the nines.
“What will you wear for October 12?” was the most heard question among girls on the eve of Midsummer. After lunch you would go back to the square and wear a dress for the first time, it was the most important festival in the city and everyone knew it.
Elegance in dress was not the exclusive heritage of women. According to memories and as the photos testify, the bicycle as a means of transportation is no excuse for abandoning the costume.
Soap bars, box busting, magic tests, ring competitions, among other kermesse entertainments, added color to the day, among photographers who tempted the children with their ponies and llamasthe same ones that replaced the old standing Polaroid snapshot machines in the 80s.
“There was a game that gave chicks as a prize, my brothers and I came to bring 60 chicks to mom on October 12,” D’Auria assured him. As early as the 1990s, the inclusion of games such as the samba and the pirate ship made the square look like an amusement park, a custom that was quickly abandoned.
But not all was fair in the square on October 12. Patron holidays also gave rise to sports competitions. From bicycle races around the green space, a custom that has already been recorded since the 1930s, and go-kart races in the 1960s, to student volleyball tournaments in the same square.
Although attractive to the whole family, the patron saint holidays have always had exceptional protagonists among the young people. More than Student Day itself, Pilar day has always been the right date for students to not only have fun but also showcase their skills against their peers from other schools.
Mid-morning, the vigorous competition began with the traditional civil-military parade.
As today, the parade brought together community centers, clubs and other institutions working in the area.
In the afternoon the schools returned this time for the float parade. Tractors were borrowed from people who devoted themselves to farming and decorated them with flowers, fabrics and bows, always with the help of parents, uncles and anyone who could cooperate. In addition to the representatives of the enthusiasts, they also paraded the ambitious queens, who minutes later, at the end of the parade, were crowned on the central stage.
The intercollegiate volleyball tournaments on Rivadavia street in front of the municipality, first and then transferred to Lorenzo Lopez, in front of the church, they were another student classic abandoned in the 1990s and picked up again without much success years ago.
Already at sunset, the party moved from the central stage, always a friend of great musical numbers, to the gala activities organized by the various clubs in the center, animated by important tango and jazz orchestras.
Histories coincide, pointing to the rise of the Patronus festivities as the period between the decades of the 1940s and the 1970s. Already in 1976, the military coup significantly changed the color of the celebrations, as well as the mood of the people to go to the streets.
The tradition of pavilions is another that continues to this day, although today the productions are capable of surprising more than one set designer. as they were the floats of the past, there young people show their best hand skills and commercial to attract the largest number of customers.
Our Lady of Bagpipers
Religious holidays on October 12 They were always marked by veneration, an occasion in which the Virgin was removed from her privileged place on the high altar of the parish to be carried to the rhythm of prayers and songs through the central streets.
Traditionally, pilgrims on foot were supported by the faithful on horseback, and it was not uncommon for religious and traditionalist gatherings from different parts of the country to arrive at Pilar.
This was the case with the Galician community in Buenos Aires, who in the early 1950s almost always arrived by train the week after the festivities and They came down the Avenida Tomás Márquez playing the bagpipes, offering a very picturesque spectacle.
The walk ended at the Plaza 12 de Octubre, where they met not only the Virgin, but also Santiago the Apostle, a figure which at that time was accompanied by that on horseback. With the liturgical reform, the horse that the Galicians had donated was removed, a fact they did not like too much. Pilgrimages in honor of the Mother of God were a mass phenomenon that by the 1960s covered several blocks.
Little by little, the folk celebrations leave the religious ones in the background.