Letters – Happy San Juan Island day

Catholics honor saints more than Protestants do, though Protestants have generally been OK with Santa Claus and Saint Patrick. June 24 each year honors the transit of Saint John the Baptist: San Juan el Bautista. The San Juan Islands were most likely named from Roche Harbor by the Spanish explorer Pantoja on the morning of June 24, 1791: La Isla y Archipiélago de San Juan. In the town of San Blas, Mexico, where Pantoja departed on his ship named Rosario, the people annually celebrate the town’s namesake, San Blasius, each Feb. 3rd: el Dia de San Blas. People on San Juan Island could also choose to celebrate our island’s namesake each year, adding a special holiday prior to the summer tourist rush beginning with the Fourth of July: June 24, San Juan Island Day.

The twist in the story: the Spanish explorers first named the body of water between San Juan Island and Port Townsend as El Seno de Santa Rosa. Translated, that is the Bosom of Virgin Mary. Mary’s nephew was John the Baptist and John was beheaded for his baptizing practices. Notice that on a map, San Juan Island is the shape of a head, with the U.W. Labs on the nose and Cattle Point is the beard. The island is the head of the beheaded nephew John resting in the bosom of Mary. In the background on a map, the archipelago of the San Juans forms the shape of a tilted broken heart, with the compass rose’s north pointing arrow piercing the heart in Mary’s bosom like cupid’s arrow.

The point being, let’s have one more holiday to kick-start the summer season. The barrier to such a dream: the Spanish naming is a Catholic history and, historically, the United States has suppressed that aspect of history to more honor Protestant history. It is all connected, even when seemingly disconnected. Happy Saint John’s Day, June 24. Happy San Juan Island Day.

Mark Billington

San Juan Island