Day of the Dead takes over Toronto

Oct 29, 2013 | News

The Day of The Dead is a Mexican holiday, declared a world heritage by UNESCO in 2003. (Courtesy Mexican Consulate)

The Day of The Dead is a Mexican holiday, declared part of our world heritage by UNESCO in 2003. (Courtesy Mexican Consulate)

by Raúl A. Pinto

On Nov. 1 – Nov. 2 Toronto will participate in The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos in Spanish,) a two-day Mexican celebration that honours people who have died.

Luis Rojas, artistic coordinator of  Toronto’s Casa Maiz, a Mexican-Canadian community centre, told Humber News about the importance of the event.

Día de los Muertos is basically the remembrance of dead people. This is an ancient tradition way back to the pre-Hispanic cultures, where Aztecs and Mayans believed in the dead as a new level in their current lives instead of a mourning occasion,” Rojas said.

“The Catholics – specifically the Franciscan Order – took elements of this belief and mixed it with the All Saint’s and All Soul’s Day.  You can add local culture in different cities and towns in Mexico, and the memory of dead family members, making it a very unique festivity,” he said.

Raymond Trejo studied anthropology at the Mexican National School of Anthropology and History. He is also part of Casa Maiz.  He told Humber News that his goal is to eventually make Día de los Muertos a popular celebration in the GTA.

Trejo is proud that in 2003, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO,) declared Mexico’s November Day of the Dead traditions part of our “world heritage.”

“This is a celebration that anybody can take part in. There’s basically two elements needed to commemorate this day: an altar and the ofrenda (tribute.) The basic altar consists of candles –representing the fire, or life- and fake skulls –representing death. The ofrenda is food that the lost person liked, water, the marigold flowers and a portrait. When you haven’t lost close people, the tradition is to include famous people or people you admired,” Trejo said.

Raymond, for instance, makes his own altar at his neighborhood in Toronto.

“In Mexico people honour children who have died on Nov. 1, and adults next day, but both days include people playing music and sharing with the family in honor of the departed. At our event we’ll recreate a Mexican cemetery and the colorful remembrance, including Canadian elements like Aboriginal culture’s point of view of death,” Trejo said.

Casa Maiz’s Day of the Dead is next Saturday on Artscape Wychood Barns from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m, and admission is free.

For more Day of the Dead events in the GTA, look at the slideshow below. 

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