SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - For the Robledo sisters, dancing in Old Spanish Days Fiesta isn't just a family affair dating back to the 1950's -- it's a tradition.
Inspired by their mother's passion for flamenco dancing, Melissa Robledo Pulido, Kristina Robledo Cabral and Nathalie Robledo Shaw all began their path into dancing before the age of five.
The three sisters had pretty much danced with every dance studio in Santa Barbara before landing under the teaching of the famous Linda Vega in what would end up becoming an acclaimed first-class flamenco dance studio.
"Third time's the charm." After two unsuccessful auditions, Melissa was named the 1989 Old Spanish Days Spirit of Fiesta under the direction of Vega. She recalls that at that time, she led El Desfile Historico, the largest equestrian parade this side of the Mississippi, without a court behind her, but she couldn't be prouder to have her father being there for her and her sisters every step of the way.
"When my sister was Spirit, he walked the parade with her, he filmed every show she had, he made every event. Wherever she was, he was her driver, her photographer...he did whatever he needed to do," recalled Kristina.
"I think it's more important to carry on our Fiesta traditions so that he can still watch it and be a part of it," said Kristina.
Eventually, the three sisters got married and had children of their own. The next generation of dancers had emerged keeping the family tradition of dancing alive.
"I like to take part in it [Fiesta] every year with my family because I feel it's a great tradition. We always still find the joy and the love in it each year as it comes again and again," said Desirae Pulido, Melissa's daughter.
"It first started off with her [mom] just putting me into dance, and every year I just kept doing it because I loved it so much," said Kristina's daughter Olivia Cabral. "Practicing, getting better at it, taking workshops with guest artists that come from Spain, and then, of course, performing for Fiesta, just dancing on stage, knowing that people that come in from other countries sometimes they sit out there and they're amazed by the dancing that's on stage. I enjoy dancing for the community."
Watch the entire 9-minute featurette above and be sure to check out our Fiesta page for other stories, slideshows, and videos from Old Spanish Days.
For more information, visit https://oldspanishdays-fiesta.org.