Brock students mark Día de los Muertos in Niagara

Each decorative candle, lantern and calavera —or sugar skull — is placed with care to create a sea of vibrant colour meant to honour the dead.The Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, altars, found at seven locations throughout Niagara, have been carefully crafted by Brock University students working closely with members of the public, including the Mexican and Latin community.A gateway to learn about Latin America’s past and present, the initiative was taken on by students in Associate Professor Maria Del Carmen Suescun Pozas’ Latin America history class.Día de los Muertos was proclaimed an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008. The festival has its origins in pre-Columbian indigenous cultures of Mexico and Latin America.The traditional festival unfolds over two days, Nov. 1 and 2, and celebrates love and respect for deceased family in a colourful and life-affirming way.Altars for offerings of traditional foods and drink, as well as photographs, candles and marigolds, are built in homes and public spaces.The public is invited to visit the Niagara altars and encouraged to leave offerings, photographs or names of loved ones on slips of paper at any of the locations.Heritage and community engagement are important tools for historians, says Suescun Pozas. The experience is an opportunity for students to understand how their own work is not independent from tangible and intangible legacies and to reflect on the nature of remembering, forgetting and building communal knowledge.“The Day of the Dead is a gift to us all from fellow Mexicans who live and work in Niagara,” says Suescun Pozas. “The festivity honours the memory of temporary residents who have worked in the agricultural sector in Niagara and died in the recent past. “Migrant workers are important members of the community and we wish to acknowledge their participation in helping advance knowledge of a history Latin America and Canada share.”The altars, which will remain in place until Thursday, Nov. 8, can be found at the following locations:Mahtay Café, St. CatharinesBlack Sheep Lounge, WellandNiagara Military Museum, Niagara FallsPelham Public Library, Fonthill and Maple Acre branchesMarilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, St. CatharinesTD Niagara Jazz Festival Twilight Jazz SeriesHI-Niagara Falls Hostel, Niagara Falls

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