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Holidays at the Presidio: La Pastorela

by Noah Tucker


Elvira Tafoya (pictured bottom row right) along with the cast of La Pastorela. Photo by Noah Tucker.

This year’s production of La Pastorela came to a wrap Sunday December 18, and the performance was, simply put, fantastic. Performed inside the Santa Barbara Presidio Chapel, the play centers around a small group of shepherds who are attempting to make their way to Bethlehem in order to witness the birth of Christ. As someone who was unfamiliar with the play or its significance, I was a little unsure of what to expect during my first attendance. My apprehensions were raised even higher when I learned that the play would be performed entirely in Spanish, a language that I have difficulty understanding when spoken at a fluid (or, let’s face it, normal) pace. What I discovered, however, was a true treasure indeed!


The audience for La Pastorela before the start of a performance. Photo by Noah Tucker.

Produced and directed by Elvira Tafoya and performed by the Los Pastores de Santa Barbara ensemble, this play has an abundance of talent, dedication, and passion. The performances of the actors, all of whom were dressed in first-rate costumes, lent an incredibly unique dynamic to the play that would be hard to find in other local productions. The set design was extraordinary, as the production team managed to transform the Presidio altar into a rural countryside setting, literally overnight. And the music—it was such a treat! Local musicians Xochitl Tafoya, Daisy Leon, and Ritchie Gonzales all delivered flawless performances and a lot of the music they played is still joyously stuck in my head, even as I type this sentence.


Overjoyed attendees exit the Presidio Chapel after a Saturday night performance of La Pastorela. Photo by Noah Tucker.

For those who missed this year’s production of La Pastorela, there is no need to fret; Tafoya plans on bringing the production back to the Presidio next year. “I’ve been doing this play for thirty years and I love doing it here,” says Tafoya. “This is the perfect location.”

Noah Tucker is the weekend supervisor at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

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