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Experience a Day of the Dead Sunday October 31 at Harbourfront Centre

TORONTO, October 19, 2004-Harbourfront Centre and the Consulate General of Mexico conduct a cultural seance celebrating the Day of the Dead on Sunday October 31. This ancient Mesoamerican festivity and prominent Mexican holiday remembers ancestors by bringing their memories to life through a vast array of family oriented activities. Harbourfront Centre embraces these vibrant traditions with a full day of free music, crafts, dance, storytelling, altars, visual arts and food.

Day of the Dead takes place at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West) Sunday October 31 (noon to 6 p.m.). All events are free and are suitable for all ages. For information call 416-973-4000 or visit

Day of the Dead highlights (complete listings below):

Music and Dance:
Toronto/Brussels group Viva Mexico Mariachi accompany Toronto folkloric dance group Tonatiuh with a special performance celebrating the Day of the Dead. Nine folkloric dances, most from the region of Oaxaca, are performed followed by music by Viva Mexico Mariachi, solo and in tandem with Tonatiuh. The performance reveals the women making graveyard offerings and the males costumed as skeletons to convey the synergy of life and death on this day.

Master storyteller Marcela Romero García presents Indigenous stories from Mexico in English and Spanish entitled, The Day of the Dead: Shall We Cry or Celebrate? During her 14 years of experience performing in Spain, Cuba and Mexico she has combined her career as a sociologist and actress with storytelling. Compelling for audiences of all ages.

Community Visual Arts
: Ofrendas or altars are an integral part of Day of the Dead. In Mexican homes observant families create an altar and decorate it with items that they believe are attractive to the souls of their departed ones. Flowers, food and memorabilia prized by the departed are displayed to entice the souls of the dead to return to take part in the remembrance. Harbourfront Centre's Day of the Dead Ofrenda features three altars. Two traditional altars will be created by EX-A-TEC Canada and the Mexican Canadian Association, Cien Mujeres Mexicanas and the Mexican Community, while a contemporary interpretation will be created by The Latino Canadian Cultural Association.

Crafts: Families create Mexican cartoneria (paper or cardboard sculptures- similar to papier mache) guided by Mexican artist Sergio Otero (who has participated in exhibits across Europe and the U.S.A.). This popular Mexican art form combines Spanish techniques with Indigenous motifs. Objets made using the cartoneria technique are incorporated into altars for the Day of the Dead ceremonies. The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Arts also sponsors a Day of the Dead Clay Workshop with ceramic artist Audrey Mah.

Visual Arts: 
Italian-Canadian artist Vincenzo Pietropaolo presents the photography exhibition Essential Work: Mexican Migrant Farm Workers. Taken from his body of work (he has photographed migrant workers in Ontario for twenty years), this black and white exhibition of Mexican workers captures them in day-to-day candid settings.

Two performances by Fabrizia y su Grupo Latin Cumbia - a Latin American group originally formed to entertain the large Mexican migrant population in Leamington, Ontario. The group plays a large variety of Latin American rhythms including merengue, salsa, cumbia and norteno. Film: An animated short and feature film accentuate the day's themes.

Food and Market Place: Day of the Dead bread and churros from Xilonen Catering, Oaxaca chocolate from Chocolateria Maya, authentic Mexican food from El Jacalito. The market features Mexican pewter, jewellery and Mexican crafts.

Day of the Dead at Harbourfront Centre - October 31, 2004
Complete Event Listings (noon to 6 p.m.) - All events are free

All events are presented in partnership with the Consulate General of Mexico

Crafts - Day of the Dead Crafts (Zoom Room - 1 p.m. to 5 p.m - featuring Mexican artist Sergio Otero)
Crafts - Day of the Dead Clay Workshop (Zoom Room - 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.)
The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Arts sponsors this workshop with ceramic artist Audrey Mah
Film - Animated short Hasta los Huesos (Down to the Bones) - 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. (15 min.) - Studio Theatre
Film - Feature film Macario (in Spanish with subtitles) - 2:30 p.m. (90 min.) - Studio Theatre
Food and Market Place - Various food and craft vendors (noon to 6 p.m.)
Music - Fabrizia y su Grupo Latin Cumbia (2 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. - Lakeside Terrace)
Music and Dance - Viva Mexico Mariachi and Tonatiuh (3:30 p.m.-  Brigantine Room)
Storytelling - The Day of the Dead: Shall We Cry or Celebrate? featuring Marcelo Romero García (Mexico)
(1 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. in English and 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. in Spanish and English - Lakeside Terrace)
Visual Arts - Ofrenda / Altars (Marilyn Brewer Community Space & Lakeside Terrace - Oct. 31 to Nov. 4)
Visual Arts - Essential Work: Mexican Migrant Farm Workers (Marilyn Brewer Community Space - Oct. 31 to Nov. 4)

What is the Day of the Dead?
The original celebration can be traced to Mesoamerican native traditions, such as the festivities held during the Aztec month of Miccailhuitontli (July), ritually presided over by the "Lady of the Dead" (Mictecacihuatl), and dedicated to children and the dead. The festive mood comes from pre-Hispanic society beliefs that regard death not as the end of life, but rather as an awakening or rebirth in the land of the dead. In the post-conquest era the festivities were moved by Spanish priests to coincide with the Christian holiday of All Hallows Eve (Halloween). The end result is that Mexicans now celebrate the Day of the Dead during the first two days of November. The modern festivity is characterized by the traditional Mexican blend of ancient Aboriginal and introduced Christian features.

What happens during Day of the Dead?
Generally, families welcome the dead back into their homes and/or by visiting the graves of close kin. At the cemetery, family members spruce up the gravesite, decorate it with flowers and enjoy a picnic in addition to interacting with other family and community members. In both cases, celebrants believe that the souls of the dead return and are all around them. Families remember the departed by telling stories about them. Meals prepared for these picnics usually featuring meat dishes in spicy sauces, chocolate beverages, cookies, sugary confections in a variety of animal or skull shapes, and a special egg-batter bread ("pan de muerto," or bread of the dead). Gravesites and family altars are decorated with flowers and adorned with religious amulets and offerings of food, cigarettes and alcohol. This commemoration has pleasant overtones for the observers, in spite of the open fatalism exhibited by all, whose interaction with both living and dead is an important social ritual.

For more information and pictures on Day of the Dead link to: and 


Media Contacts:

Shane Gerard, 416-973-4655,
Bill Bobek, 416-973-4428,
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