As their community grows quickly in Toronto, Mexicans across Toronto are celebrating their roots in bigger numbers every year.
“It wasn’t so long ago the Mexican community in Toronto was much smaller than it currently is,” said Mexican Day Toronto organizer Hilda Panasiuk at the 29th annual Mexican Independence Day Celebration on Sept. 16.
The Toronto event is recognized now as one of the largest Independence Day celebrations outside of Mexico and the largest in Canada — and it draws many people from different communities.
“When we started there were several people doing their own events and the Mexican Consulate suggested we pool our talents and resources and create one not just for the Mexican community, but the entire city as well,” Panasiuk said.
Independence Day commemorates the beginning of Mexico’s struggle for Independence from Spanish colonial rule.
Sept. 15, 1810 is the date Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the church bell in the town of Dolores, Mexico and delivered his call to arms, beginning the war of independence. This call to arms became known as “Grito de Dolores” (Cry of Dolores).
Each year in Mexico City’s main square, people gather and prepare for Mexico’s president to reenact the “Grito de Dolores” to the city gathered below the balcony of the National Palace. As the president says “Viva Mexico!” the crowd responds back “Viva!”. After the “grito,” the national anthem is sung, and fireworks light the sky, marking the beginning of the holiday.
Today members of the Mexican community in Toronto are motivated by “a desire to share our rich heritage, pass along our traditions to our children and younger generations,” Panasiuk said.
Toronto has about 61,000 Mexican people, according to the 2022 census.
As in Mexico, the celebration in Toronto is filled with dance, food, music, art, and culture. With traditions brought from different Mexican states, people can experience what the celebration is like in all of Mexico.
Mexxi Arts owner Victoria Duran, a sponsor of this year’s celebration, brought Monos de Calenda, a tradition from the state of Oaxaca to the celebration.
A Calenda is a giant paper maché puppet, with a person inside of it making all of its movements. Duran was able to make this happen for this year’s celebration, making the Calendas with recycled paper.
Through her company of Mexxi Arts which she founded four years ago, Duran’s mission is to share the Mexican culture in this country.
The Calenda for her was a way to bring nostalgia to the event, for her to able to share Mexican culture with Canada, which had already welcomed her with open arms and made her feel eat home, she said.
“That’s the beauty of sharing our own Latin America in a foreign country,” Duran said.
Duran share Mexican culture for her daughter who was born in Toronto.
“Being in another country, it’s important that we stay close to our roots, to not divide ourselves from our own traditions and cultures,” she said, “I want my daughter to know my culture because that’s the cultural inheritance that I will leave for her in this life.”
According to Panasiuk, the event is well received by the city of Toronto. Mexican Day Toronto, a small organization “connected by the love of the event and culture” is extremely grateful for this, she said.
Moreno Travel owner Gonzalo Moreno has been a sponsor for 25 years and admires how the small organization ensures this event is carried out every year.
“We must preserve our culture and values even in foreign lands,” Moreno said. He sees this day as a way to share Mexico’s culture even with non-Mexicans.
Panasuik said Mexican Day Toronto wants to expand its footprint at Nathan Phillips Square.
“As long as the community keeps supporting us, showing up, sharing the passion and love of the event, we’ll keep going,” she said.