Thousands of people gathered in Yonge Dundas Square over the weekend to celebrate the diverse Hispanic cultures found throughout the city.
The two-day event took place from Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, which coincides with the start of Latin American Heritage Month in Canada.
The parade kicked off the festival at 10 a.m. from Bloor Street West near St. George TTC station and made its way down Yonge Street before ending at Dundas Square.
The festival honours and celebrates Hispanic and Latino peoples and their heritage while sharing food, traditions and culture with patrons.
“Our objective really is upholding our roots, upholding our culture and for Canadians with Latin American backgrounds to be proud of their roots,” said Oscar Vigil, event organizer and executive director of the Hispanic Canadian Heritage Council (HCHC).
Vigil has been active in the Hispanic community in Toronto for more than 22 years. The desire to have more support for Hispanic and Latin peoples in Canada is what led to the founding of HCHC in 2014 and events like this one.
“There’s support from the Latin American Consulates for this cause because for them it’s important to maintain and uphold the culture and traditions of their people,” Vigil said.
The event had support from consulates of many Latin American countries, including Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador and Mexico, and support from the Canadian government, Ontario and Toronto.
Dozens of food and souvenir vendors filled the square as live performers from different Latin American countries shared their cultures’ music and dance on stage.
“The number of people from different cultures and ethnicities enjoying the festival was very exciting to see,” said Lucía Gonzalez, the festival’s program and OndasFM radio host.
“Toronto is a very multicultural city, so we were expecting people from different countries and different parts of the world were going to join and be able to experience these Latin cultures. We want to share that with the world and for sure here in Toronto,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, who’s from Toronto, said it is important for a city as diverse as Toronto to have events showcasing the various cultures it is rich in.
“It’s important for our Latin culture,” she said. “Not only for us to be able to celebrate, but also to show the world our culture and our traditions.”
Graciela Lopez, an Argentine vendor at the festival, said events like these encourage immigrants to be proud of their culture and heritage while living abroad.
“This is very important for us to show our culture, our heritage like this out in public so that new immigrants can know they can be proud of their background and their origins,” Lopez said.
Lopez started her charity, Gaucha Argentina – Love For Humanity, to help provide food, clothing, medical supplies and other necessities to Latin American children and communities in need, with all proceeds from her going to the charity.
“For me, it’s an important moment,” Lopez said. “I am very thankful for everything Canada did for me as an immigrant and for helping me fulfill my dream to create a charity to help children back home.”