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Passion and instant familiarity are two aspects of Mexican culture that you will be greeted with immediately upon entering the Mexican Pavilion.

The third may or may not include an excited conversation about Mexico's emergence from the first round of the World Cup earlier this summer.

"It's a big soccer nation," chuckled Alberto Velasco, one of the masters of ceremonies for the Mexican Pavilion this year. "When Mexico scored that one goal against Germany in [Mexico's] opening game at the World Cup, there was a mini earthquake registered in Mexico City because there were so many Mexicans jumping at once."

Velasco immigrated to Canada 14 years ago. "My roots [are] completely Mexican," Velasco reflected, noting he was already an adult when he left his home country. The importance of family is one of the things Velasco remembers most from his childhood. 

"Our culture is very family oriented... when we talk about family, it's not just a nuclear family. We're talking about the cousins and the second cousins... all of them are just cousins, and aunts and uncles, and sometimes even the best friend, all of a sudden they become the aunt or the uncle."alma alberto LEADAlma De La Torre and Alberto Velasco love the chance each year to publicly honour their Mexican heritage.

Despite growing up in different regions of the country, Alma De La Torre, an entertainment coordinator for the Mexican Pavilion and a public relations officer for the Mexican Association of Manitoba, highlighted the importance of familial bonds, which was instilled in her from a young age.

"Mexicans do not know how to be by themselves," she laughed. "We love company, we love music, we fix everything with... good food."

It's that sentiment and warm community that Folklorama helps to capture through the Mexican Pavilion each year.

"I don't think it matters how long you have been away from your country," De La Torre, who moved to Canada 13 years ago, remarked. "It matters how well you know and how much you love your country. When you come to a place like Canada, you fall in love with everything around it, but you don't ever stop missing your music, even your language.

"It's just something that pulls you in."

Members of the Hispanic community seem to agree. Folklorama's Mexican Pavilion, in addition to giving Canadians a taste of Mexican culture, provides a place for Spanish-speakers from all backgrounds to gather and connect. "We're one big family, so-to-speak," smiled Velasco.

The environment of the pavilion breeds familiarity and warmth. "It's just an opportunity to talk about things that are important, but also things that make us laugh," says De La Torre. "If you are surrounded by Mexican people, nothing is too serious and no topic is off the table."

 De La Torre and Velasco each want their children to grow up knowledgeable and passionate about their culture, especially when it comes to language.

"Language is a big part of our culture, because if you speak Spanish... we make jokes, we show our appreciation or our love to others," De La Torre explained.

Secondary only to language when it comes to the preservation of the Mexican culture is food. "Two months without Mexican food is too much time," the two laughed. De La Torre continued, "sharing our food with people, talking about what we love is the biggest way of talking (sic) about our Mexico."

Mexican culture honours hard work and values the time in between, placing as much importance on a job well done as time well spent. "We believe we are hardworking people, we are fun people, not too serious people, but we know when the time to be responsible and disciplined is here."

As Velasco puts it, "it's one of those things that we want to keep alive."

Plans for this years' Mexican Pavilion have been in the works since the end of Folklorama 2017 and will transport you to the south from the moment you step into the pavilion. Themed “Para Bailar La Bamba” ["To Dance La Bamba"], this year the pavilion will feature the International Ballet Folklorico de la Universidad Veracruzana, performing a show never before seen in Canada.

"The word Bamba itself is an interesting thing," says De La Torre. "There is no actual meaning to it that we know of."

The song "La Bamba" came from a region in Mexico with very strong Spanish, African, and Indigenous influence. Some believe the song comes from Spanish roots; others say it originated near the Congo. De La Torre says it's the mix of all three cultures that contributed to the song as we know it today.

"We wanted to build the pavilion around the fact that "La Bamba" is a well-known song, but we wanted to show that the song comes from full context, a full culture behind it," explained Velasco.

You can visit the Mexican Pavilion until Saturday, August 11, 2018, at the RBC Convention Centre (375 York Ave., North Building, third floor).

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Folklorama kicks off 2018 with official proclamation

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