For the first time, after being proclaimed by Parliament, the Latin American Heritage Month is being celebrated across the country. “Latin American Heritage Month is the perfect time for Canadians to learn a little more about the long and rich history of the Latin American community in Canada and the inspiring role it has played and continues to play, in our society”, read the official document. October has been chosen to mark the presence of this community in Canada.
Although immigrants from Latin America were coming to Canada since at least the end of the 19th century, it was only toward the last quarter of the 20th century that a more massive presence of Latin Americans appeared in Canada. This presence was more noticeable in large cities such as Montreal, Toronto ‘where there is the biggest Latino community’, Vancouver, and others with smaller but equally active groups. A political situation marked by military dictatorships in South American countries such as Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay in the 1970s was an important factor in this new immigration. A decade later civil wars in Central America, resulted again in the arrival of new Latinos, this time from El Salvador and Guatemala. And since then, regular immigration, especially from Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and in recent times from Venezuela, has brought families and individuals in search of a better life in this country. With the presence of these relatively new immigrants, there have also come interesting unique cultural contributions to the Canadian mosaic. The rhythms of salsa and tango, the flavours of a rich gastronomy: from Peruvian ceviche to Mexican tacos and Chilean empanadas, and indeed, the professional and artistic contributions of the newcomers, have also left a mark in the multicultural character of Canada, Montreal and Quebec.
The contribution of the Latin American presence was highlighted by Mayor Valerie Plante, at the ceremony marking the opening of the celebrations, at the Fine Arts Museum. In part of her address, she spoke in Spanish underlining the impact of the Latino community in the social and cultural fabric of Montreal. In the city the occasion has been marked by a series of events, from art exhibits, to music shows, to book presentations, and discussion panels.
Writers of Latino origin from various cities (including the author of these lines), will also be reading excerpts from their books this Saturday, October 19, in Ottawa at the Latin American Book Fair, which is being held at Library and Archives Canada. The evening will end with a presentation by the Aztlan Folkloric Ballet.
Feature image: A number of artistic shows and other events are marking the Latin American Heritage Month in the city