Sant’ Yago

On a recent Saturday night [January 7], something wonderful and surreal happened to my family. My son, Ramon, from the house of Favata, the grandson of one of the founders of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago Joseph, from the house of Granda, and the son of Charter Member John Favata, became the 50th King of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago. My Granddaughter, Demmi, from the House of Parrino, became his Queen. We were all part of this four-generation event.

I kept telling myself that this was a really big deal for a special group of people from a small place called Ybor in a little town on the Hillsborough River called Tampa. For a brief moment, our family was big fish in a small pond. It was a big deal to make eye contact with our Mayor Jane Castor just before we were introduced to 1100 invited guests at the Tampa Convention Center.

As the King Mum and Queen Grand Mum, I was escorted across the dance floor by Knight Anthony Arena. As I walked through the rows of Knights, clad in their stunning costumes, clapping and cheering, I was grateful and blessed to be in attendance. This is an important way to honor the contributions of those who have helped build and sustain an organization that is developed and dedicated to a brotherhood of men working to maintain the Latin culture of Tampa and sponsoring educational scholarships for our outstanding local students.

And, of course, there are the parades. Lots of parades, with beads, including their own, the Ybor City Illuminated Krewe of Sant’ Yago Knight Parade will be held on February 11th down 7th Ave in Ybor City.

Viva Rey Ray! Viva Queen Demmi! Viva Sant’ Yago!

How did the Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago come into existence? Here, from the Krewe’s Facebook page, is their story.

The Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago by Frank Trebin Lastra

By the early 1970s, the cigar industry in Ybor City was dead. Many Latin families had already moved out of the core and extended areas of the historic town, leaving few to carry on traditions and resulting in the disintegration of the social clubs and hospitals. Most of the old-time merchants had closed up and departed. La Septima (7th Ave) had lost its vigor.

In light of this the situation, an organization was needed to add cohesiveness and spark life for scattered Latins remaining in the town. Faced with a bleak prospect, an unswerving patriot of the town, Dr. Henry J. Fernandez, convened a “Founding Group” to discuss this dreadful situation and begin to address it. He brought together men of known solid backgrounds and ones seriously interested in reversing Ybor City’s downhill slide. This group consisted of Fernandez, the true “founder”, with Cesar Gonzmart Sr., Daniel F. Martinez, Joe C. Granda, and Joseph R. Lopez. They met regularly at the Las Novedades Restaurant (Now the Haya Hotel) for a year, researching and discussing many possibilities. Then came some unexpected international inspiration.

While in Spain on a fine-wine search for his Columbia Restaurant, Cesar Gonzmart Sr. met a respected vintner, owner of the “Yago” brand, and a man who had also been named Spain’s Baron of Sant’ Yago, an honorary title awarded in a legendary organization.

It was based on a theme born of Christianity, knighthood, and nobility. The Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago is named in honor of Saint James, one of the twelve disciples. The early conversion of Spain to Christianity is based on the missionary zeal of a fisherman, who, like Peter, Andrew, and James, abandoned his livelihood to follow Jesus. After the crucifixion of Christ, Saint James, as did the other disciples, dispersed to rocky shores where even today, fishermen claim their steps to be visible. He traveled to the far reaches of Spain, where he converted thousands from paganism to Christianity before King Herod Agrippa I killed him in Jerusalem in the year 44 AD.

Some say that the followers of Saint James took his body to Spain, his adopted land, and buried him in Galicia, in northwest Spain, where his tomb was converted into a place for the early Christian missionaries to worship. Pilgrims came to the spot from many parts of Europe, defying all hazards and peril to render homage to Saint James. To this day, one can travel “the way of Saint James” from France to Spain.

During the long centuries when the Spanish fought to rid themselves of invading Moors, in one instance, at a time of possible defeat, legend has it that visions of Saint James (Sant’ Yago), mounted on a white horse and carrying a flag with a cross on it, so uplifted and inspired the Spanish soldiers that they defeated the enemy.

There are variations of this story, but over the years, Christian knights in Spain fought many battles to protect European missionaries on pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Those who defended these religious pilgrims soon became famous and came to be known as the “Knights of Sant’ Yago.” The bravery and honor celebrated in the popular name were eventually formalized by the formation of the Knights of the Royal Order of Sant’ Yago.

On his return to Ybor City from his visit to Spain, Cesar shared this interesting discovery with the “Founders Group” at Las Novedades – Fernandez, Martinez, Lopez, and Granda. He proposed that the high principles and traditions of the ancient Spanish order would be a fitting inspiration for a local group of crusaders and defenders who would champion Ybor City and the heritage they loved. The others embraced Cesar’s idea, and with permission, they were granted the right to form the “Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago” in 1972 in the United States of America.

Congratulations to our Krewe on 50 years! Our Founders would be so proud to see 1,100 people gathering together tonight for our 50th Coronation Ball.

Viva Sant’ Yago!

Ray Ann Favata says “For about 15 years, OLLI-USF has offered me the opportunity to serve as the Volunteer Management Committee Chair, President of the Board of Advisors for the 20th Anniversary Celebration, and Chair of the Travel Opportunities Committee.  My membership in OLLI-USF has been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.”


3 Replies to “Sant’ Yago”

  1. Thanks, Ray Ann, for sharing your touching personal story, as well as the impressive history of the Krewe of Sant’ Yago.
    I remember being surprised to learn that the name of the important city in Galicia, “Santiago”, is another version of “Sant’ Yago”!

  2. Pageantry and history galore! I love the costumes and the meaning behind them. Enjoy your family and the traditions associated with all of you.

  3. Thanks – this is precisely why we love Tampa.

    P.S. Your Krewe will be invited to fly in the planned-proposed TGIF Flight 2024 Tampa Gasparilla International Fly-In on January 26-28, 2024. There will be an Air TATTOO (air parade) for the 300,000+ spectators waiting hours for the parade to start; some will return to land Peter O. Knight airport – others will continue on an Aerial Pirate’s Flying Treasure Hunt of Tampa Bay.

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