Saint John's first Day of the Dead festival coming this weekend

Fabiola Martinez said the day will be a chance to celebrate the best memories of those who have passed away.  (Lane Harrison/CBC - image credit)
Fabiola Martinez said the day will be a chance to celebrate the best memories of those who have passed away. (Lane Harrison/CBC - image credit)

As a child living in Mexico, Fabiola Martinez would look forward to celebrating the Day of the Dead with her classmates each fall. Now, she's helping bring the first Dia de los Muertos festival to Saint John.

Martinez, who is the project's art director, said she hopes the festival will conjure memories for those in the community who have a connection with her home country.

"I hope that not only for the Mexican families, [but] for all the families who have had the opportunity to visit Mexico or who have been connected with this culture through a movie, through a song, through a family member, through whatever the circumstances," Martinez said.

"Whatever the connection is, I hope that in this festival, I hope they find a little bit of the memory."

WATCH | Fabiola Martinez preps for the big day:

The free-to-attend festival will take place on the evening of Oct. 29 on Grannan Street. It will include costumes, music, art, dancing, performances and food to bring the spirit of the day to Uptown Saint John.

"I hope that this brings a new energy to the city of Saint John and we all celebrate. So everybody's welcome to come join us," Martinez said.

A celebration for the senses

The festival will be an event for all five senses. The day is a celebration of lives lived instead of a collective mourning of death, Martinez said.

"This is not a sad moment. This is a time to embrace the best memories that we have about them," Martinez said. "The music, the tastes, the things that they used to love when they were alive. And this is a connection between life and death."

Among traditional music and a food truck, a central piece of the festival will be an art installation called Altar, which will include work from multiple artists and is inspired by the traditional altars created in Mexico to honour those who have died.

Lane Harrison/CBC
Lane Harrison/CBC

Usually the altar is dedicated to someone in particular, but this one will have a different meaning.

"This is only a public installation that represents a connection between two different cultures and how as a community, we can be connected."

It includes work by emerging and established artists in the community. One of the pieces, Cara en la Piedra by Jillian Higgins, combines iconic imagery associated with the festival and the natural landscape of New Brunswick.

As part of the installation, a seven foot mural will be hung between buildings on Grannan Street.

Lane Harrison/CBC
Lane Harrison/CBC

The works are up for sale on the festival website, with 25 per cent of the proceeds going toward the Stone Church Conservation Project.

The Rothesay Ballet School will be doing an outdoor performance and students from the Anglophone South School District will be painting pumpkins in the Day of the Dead style.

Lane Harrison/CBC
Lane Harrison/CBC

Plus, there will be a contest to see who can best embody La Catrina, Mexico's lady of death, which face paint aficionados can register for online.

"We will be [on Grannan] from six to 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock, whatever the people desire, it's going to be a big party for the city," Martinez said.

An invitation for all

For Angela Samson, the festival's social media coordinator who is originally from Colombia, she felt this day always belonged to Mexico.

"To be part of Mexican culture and being invited [into it] like this by Fabiola has been very special for me," Samson said.

Lane Harrison/CBC
Lane Harrison/CBC

"Because the art and the culture in Mexico, I think, is fascinating, full of colour, full of meaning, and very connected as well with my culture."

Lane Harrison/CBC
Lane Harrison/CBC

Martinez is inviting all of Saint John to experience the beauty of Mexican culture.

"We welcome everybody in Saint John and the surrounding areas, we are more than happy to share with everybody the [celebration] that we have prepared."