San Acacio hosts celebration this Saturday

VIEJO SAN ACACIO — St Acacius, or Agathius, is one of the lesser-known saints, but he meant everything to settlers in what is now Viejo San Acacio — old San Acacio.

The small community will celebrate a feast honoring the town’s patron saint on Saturday, Sept. 23.

The day will begin with a procession from the cemetery to the church, with a celebration mass at 12:30.

Admission for the fiesta celebration and lunch at the community center is $7 and those attending will be treated to a barbecue lunch, beverages and entertainment by live local bands, Indian Nickel and Salt & Pepper.

Indian Nickel

Indian Nickel is a true San Luis Valley band, playing local favorites and old cultural standards for more than 43 years an still as hot as ever, with founder Leroy Casias and rhythm guitarist Floyd Martinez leading the way down memory lane. Other long-time members are Johnny Overton on drums, keyboard artist Jeff Jacquez and Arnie Quezada adding the bass tones. The repertoire including popular Latino tunes, old rock ‘n roll, cumbias to set toes tapping, top 40s and requests from the audience.

Their popularity and preservation of cultural music led them to be inducted during 2004 into the Chicano Music Hall of Fame, which was established in 2002.

Salt & Pepper

Salt & Pepper, Tony Nardi and Eddie Mobley, have brought the true rhythm and blues sound of the south to the San Luis Valley. They met while serving on Utapao AFB in Thailand, where Nardi, already a veteran of the blues scene, put together a band. The rhythm and blues band, Salt & Pepper, played in military service clubs when the musicians were off duty.

They are together again to honor St. Acacius, himself a veteran.

Karla is working with neighbors in San Acacio to put together the feast celebration. For more information, contact Emery or Cecilia Quintana at (718) 672-3827.

San Acacio

St. Acacius, also known as San Acacio, was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, the late medieval “supersaint” team, best aligned with the Avenger Gilgamesh.

Acacius was born in Armenia in the 2nd century and was martyred c. 304 during Emperor Diocletian’s persecution. 

He was a Roman soldier and is typically depicted as such, or often he is a knight with a sword or crucifix in his hand. He chose martyrdom over renouncing his Christian faith and was whipped, crowned with thorns and stoned. Legend has it that none of these methods were effective and, instead of striking him, the stones were propelled back into the throwers’ hands boomerang-style. Ultimately he was beheaded.

Repelling enemies were his forte, however, especially in 1850 when the new village of San Acacio was being settled.

One beautiful spring day, a dark cloud of dust grew on the plain nearby and a large band of Utes appeared.

The settlers prayed. Like settlers in small communities all around what is now Costilla County, they had already chosen San Acacio as their patron saint and prayed to him for help. It was promised that, should their soldier saint save them, a church would be built in his honor.

As the tribal warriors approached, faces twisted in anger, the chief who led the band suddenly became fearful, turned his horse and left at great speed, his warriors following.

The guards who first noticed the advancing warriors were positive they had seen the face of St. Acacius. Later, a very elderly Ute related that an image of a soldier mounted on a horse appeared and guarded the settlement.

The settlers began work on the promised church. It is sturdy, with thick adobe walls and stained glass windows that have remained in place for more than 100 years with some help from the Nardis, Tony and Karla, have done some preservation work on them.

They have also traveled to Europe, finding an Italian town of Guardaville, which also has San Acacio as its patron and nearby Squillace, which is home to a chapel in which the bones of the patron saint rest within a glass coffin.

A nearby florist shop found the Nardis a statue of San Agazio — San Acacio in Italian — and they headed home

Saint Acacio has been a popular martyr among people who are in danger from government or enemies. He has been considered the patron saint of those who are in need of help.