“El Dia de los Muertos is about acknowledging those that have gone before us, but the veil is thin between life and death: they both have a great immediacy in Latin America, and probably a lot of other places in the world. Australia is a bit removed from it, and this is a way of appreciating that we need to live each day to the fullest because we never really know.”
Movimiento’s annual El Dia de los Muertos events have become infamous in the past few years – gaining such a following that the celebration will move for the third time this year, combining with the organisation’s Flavours of Latin America Festival at A Touch of Salt for arguably Townsville’s largest Day of the Dead festival to date.
Event organiser Bernadette Ashley said demand for the festival had exceeded all expectations in recent years.
“The audience for this has definitely grown, but I’ve still been surprised each year I’ve put one on that we’ve reached capacity every time; we started at our studio in 2012 and filled it, then moved to the Old Courthouse and filled it – so the only thing we could do from there was move outside!” Bernadette said.
“When we started these events, it wasn’t very well-known; Halloween had taken off in a huge way in Australia, but El Dia de los Muertos was still a bit of an unknown quantity. I teach dance so am very interested in Latin culture – I’d been to Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Columbia, and my interest isn’t just in the dance but everything that precipitated where the dance is today. I’m interested the history, the culture, colonialism, indigenous stories, and how all those different influences come together to form something that’s new in the long run.
“We’ve taken the best of both our Flavours of Latin America and El Dia de los Muertos events and put it all together: whereas before if you came to Flavours, you’d miss the major band and best performers, and if you just came to El Dia you missed a lot of that food and drink experience. Now, you get the amazing interpretation of Latin American food and drinks as well as a whole lot more entertainment – entertainment that’s a little bit unpredictable, and there’s always a surprise along the line that no one expects.”
The 2017 Flavours of Latin America Festival will also pay homage to one of Mexico’s most iconic cultural icons, with an inaugural Frida Kahlo costume competition.
“This competition is open to anyone – not limited by gender – because it’s a style of dress we’re looking at, and how people interpret that. It’s appreciation rather than appropriation, and will be voted on by the crowd after finalists are selected by our Mexican guest Jissu Martinez and Mariachi performers Oscar and Ivania,” said Bernadette.
“Frida Kahlo is very much an icon of Mexican culture, with a lot of her work addressing the ideas of mortality, living with imminent death or – in her case – disablement, while still having a really lush cultural and creative life.
“She was so lively and danced despite having her leg crushed in a trolley accident when she was young, so she fully lived her life and that’s what we’re celebrating and embracing here.”
Celebrate the day of the dead with Flavours of Latin America at A Touch of Salt this Saturday from 3pm. Tickets are available here.