The Día de Los Muertos Collective is a nonprofit that coordinates the efforts of Toronto´s Mexican community to bring a celebration that honors the dead, delights the living, promotes artistic creation and foster community development through tradition.
Since 2003 the Day of the Dead has been named Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
At Wychwood barns in Toronto, this celebration has been entirely produced by the Mexican community, without big corporate sponsorship for over 5 years to fill the need to carry on the celebration of the Day of the Dead the way we do back home.
As immigrants we feel the need to carry on with our customs to keep sight of who we are. Strengthening identity provides grounding for the individual in a new country and promotes self-esteem.
This is a 100% grassroots event, successfully created for and by the Mexican Community. It is not just a multidisciplinary festival, it is also a celebration, a ceremony, a gathering, a place where people can learn, share and enjoy art, culture and knowledge. The Day of the Dead celebration exposes a culture through its relationship with death and offers the audience an understanding of the afterlife.
We have been doing this event for 5 years in a row and the audience has been growing. By year four, we estimated our audience was 800 people. While the public interest in this celebration has generated competing commercial events, our audience is attracted by the authenticity of the event and its true grassroots organization.
Many people learn about the event from friends who are volunteers, artists, musicians or entrepreneurs, they come to support a community effort and they become a part of it.
This is a project in which the key organizational members (the Collective) are involved at least 4 months before the event. The way the tasks have been divided is effective, all members are constantly communicating and sharing ideas. Deadline for the event’s vendors is usually two weeks before the event. Material for decorations for the altars and installations are gathered a week in advance as well as the marigold flowers, (traditional Day of the Dead flower –usually donated by CAMH and Casa Loma).
The history of this celebration started when Jesus Mora offered his studio space six years ago to celebrate the Day of the dead, where the Aztec Dance Group performed and the community gathered for the ceremony. For four consecutive years the ceremony and celebration have been happening at the location of Artscape Wychwood Barns, where the musicians, Aztec dance group, theater, organizer (Jesus Mora), coordinator (Alejandra Higuera) and participants were volunteering for the achievement of this event. For the past three years we have approached some sponsors that have given us the financial means to provide an honorarium to the participant artists and paid the main expenses of the event. In 2013 we developed a partnership with Casa Maiz (Latin American non for Profit Cultural Organization) in order to expand the celebration with the Latin American community and joint efforts towards the Celebration.
We believe in bringing the traditions to our home. Toronto, Canada is our home and home for many other Mexicans. During the previous events the feedback from the community has been so positive that it keeps the motivation of the organizers in this project. This is an event that the community really enjoys and is growing and growing every year. Therefore we see the potential of many artists to participate and enrich the event and the experience of the community attending.
This event supports the arts and Mexican culture, by sharing our traditions in the most authentic way we can.