Esperanza’s World – Early Tucson Center – Celebrations

Esperanza’s World – Early Tucson Center – Celebrations




Activities / Teacher Resources

San Juan’s Day

  • El Dia de San Juan or San Juan’s Day is a celebration of water and its importance to life in the desert. The fiesta has a rich Tucson history.
  • The original Tucson celebration occurred over 130 years ago.  It was revived as a local community event in 1998 and has been celebrated annually since then.
  • It is a cultural fiesta associated with the patron saint of water, St. John the Baptist.  It was originally celebrated to ensure that rains would provide plentiful food harvests.
  • A legend states that in 1540, Francisco Vasquez Coronado, a Spanish explorer, stood on the banks of the dry Santa Cruz River praying for a badly needed rain because animals, plants and crops were dying.
  • When it began to rain, Coronado declared the date of June 24th as the traditional start of Arizona’s monsoon rains, season of el chubasco.”   Thereafter, the date has been a combined celebration of water and of St. John’s birthday.
  • In the old days flowers were thrown into the river and into the irrigation ditches.   Even though the river and the irrigation ditches or acequias are gone today, children still throw flowers into the dry riverbed.
  • Historically the day would begin with mass at Mision San Agustín. Then a procession would carry a statue of San Juan to the acequias (irrigation canals), where the statue was actually lowered into the water as a sign of hoped-for blessings from San Juan.
  • Día de San Juan celebrations are not unique to Tucson. Because it was brought to the region by Spanish missionaries similar events are celebrated in other communities in the Southwest and in northern Mexico.
  • Parades and recreational activities are included in the celebration. Mariachis, dancing, piñatas, children’s games, food and refreshments, as well as many water activities mark the day.
  • In the past, a kind of ritual bath, not part of church celebration, was frequently performed in one of the acequias or in the river. It usually took place early in the morning.
  • San Juan’s Day takes place on June 24th on the west bank of the Santa Cruz River at West Congress Street in Tucson.