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    Celebrating St. Valentine’s Day Across the Americas: Día de Amor y Amistad

    By Eduardo Morales, Ph.D.–

    During the month of February, we celebrate Valentine’s Day in different ways in the U.S. compared to Latin American countries. In the U.S. there is a celebration of partners and spouses with some acknowledgement of the romance they have and the special relationship they share. In many Latin American countries, they celebrate Valentine’s Day as not only a day to acknowledge the love of someone with whom they have a mutual primary relationship but they also honor and value friendships.

    The Spanish word for friendship is amistad. In Latin America, the idea is that love and friendship are important for the overall quality of life. Hence, both love and friendship should be honored and in Latin America they call Valentine’s Day “Día de Amor y Amistad.”

    The history concerning how Valentine’s Day originated is unclear. Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to record St. Valentine’s Day as a day of romantic celebration in his poem “Parliament of Foules,” or the Assemble of Fowls, written sometime between 1370 and 1380. This set the groundwork for Europeans to shape romantic ideas. Imagine the many European romantic stories that were generated as well as tragic operas about romances that could not flourish or be realized.

    The image of Cupid or the Greek god of love Eros is often presented as a naked cherub launching arrows of love at unsuspecting lovers. During the Hellenistic Period, Cupid was portrayed as a mischievous, chubby child and now is commonly seen on Valentine’s Day cards.

    As for the word “Valentine,” there are several stories about various persons with this name. The Catholic church recognizes at least three saints named Valentine, or Valentinus, who were martyred.

    One account involved Claudius II, who had decided that single men were better soldiers than those who had wives and families. Consequently, Saint Valentine of Terni, a Catholic bishop, was beheaded by Emperor Claudius II of Rome for performing marriages for young lovers in secret.

    The feast of Lupercalia was recognized as a day to celebrate fertility and was held on February 15. Lupercalia was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day to intentionally combine the holiday of Lupercalia with this new religious holiday of romance.

    In France and England, February 14was observed to be the beginning of birds’ mating season. This added to the idea that Valentine’s Day is a day for romance. Given these European recollections of history, it is understandable that, in the U.S., Valentine’s Day is seen as a day to honor and value romance.

    In Latin America, the importance of having personal relationships extended the meaning of Valentine’s Day to include and be inclusive of honoring important relationships in one’s lives. Given this social norm, Valentine’s Day for countries in Latin America is better seen as honoring both romantic love as well as important friendships. Interestingly, in the mid 1980s, the state of California initiated a campaign called “Friends Can Be Good Medicine” that was based on the scientific research demonstrating social support and friendships enhance health and well-being. This campaign focused on various ethnic and LGBT+ communities in California.

    In San Francisco, AGUILAS will hold its February social event in recognition of the importance of love and friendship with the themes of Fiesta de Amor y Amistad as well as Carnival. The season of Carnival ends on the evening of March 1, 2022, since March 2, 2022 is Ash Wednesday. This social event will be held in the SF LGBT Center on Thursday evening, February 24, from 6 pm to 8:30 pm with dinner and entertainment. This will allow the Latinx LGBTQ+ community to gather and celebrate love and friendship.

    At this social event, attendees can meet new friends while re-engaging with their social networks. HIV, SDI, and Hep C testing will be offered by AGUILAS’ partner and collaborator UCSF Alliance Health Project. Given the continued pandemic of COVID-19, all attendees will need to wear masks and show proof of COVID vaccination. Having a booster vaccination is also preferred to help create a safe and healthy environment for this celebration in accordance with the new SF Department of Health COVID-19 guidelines.

    You can register to attend the event at the AGUILAS website ( ) and Facebook page:

    Let’s celebrate this Día de Amor y Amistad with those whom you value in your life while also honoring a romantic love with someone special and important to you. Meanwhile, get ready for upcoming Carnival festivities!

    Eduardo Morales, PhD, is one of the founders of AGUILAS, where he serves as Executive Director. He is also a retired Distinguished Professor at Alliant International University and is the current Past President of the National Latinx Psychological Association.

    Published on January 27, 2022