World Book Day celebrated through music, dance and reading

Members of the Glendon College-based Cultural Celebration of the Spanish Language (Celebración Cultural Del Idioma Español/CCIE) always look forward to World Book Day and this year’s event gave them even more to reason to celebrate as it marked the 400th anniversary of two important works by Spanish authors. They and others from Toronto’s Hispanic community gathered at OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) on April 23 to mark the publication of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Garcilaso ‘Inca’ de la Vega’s La Florida del Inca in 1605.

Viva Mexico

Right: Members of Viva Mexico perform a mariachi dance

Organized by York’s Spanish Resource Centre, the Association of Hispanic-Canadian Teachers and the CCIE, this annual series of events highlights the relevance of books as the main tools to disseminate knowledge. World Book Day originated in Spain in 1926 and was soon adopted by Latin American countries and the European Union. Following a petition submitted by Spain, the United Nations adopted April 23 as an international commemoration day in 1995.

The date was chosen to commemorate the deaths of three famous authors: Cervantes, William Shakespeare and Garcilaso, who was the first native-Peruvian writer using Spanish in a literary work and was known as “the Inca”. All three are thought to have died on the same day, April 23, 1616.

The polyphonic choir FILASPO opened the event with the Canadian and Latin American anthems and was followed by an outstanding performance of Sephardic music and traditional Spanish songs offered by Judith Cohen, a performer and ethnomusicologist specializing in Judeo-Spanish (“Ladino”) Sephardic songs, and her daughter Tamar Ilana Cohen Adams.

Speakers at the event included Gilda Cortez, a Spanish literature teacher recently arrived from Peru, who talked about the place of Garcilaso in the Spanish-language literature; Wendolyn Lozano, a law graduate and a creative writing instructor, who discussed Cervantes’s ability to appeal to academic readers and to the general public alike; and Juan Pablo Hernando Briongos, a language assistant with York’s Spanish Resource Centre, who compared the works and times of Cervantes and Shakespeare.

Juan Tomas

Left: Guitarist Juan Tomas

The academic panel also included a presentation by translator Janet Rodriguez on the importance of bilingualism in today’s society. Maria Carmen Romero, president of the Association of Hispanic-Canadian Teachers, who played an important part in the organization of this event, offered some final thoughts about Cervantes, Shakespeare and Garcilaso, revealing differences in their biographies and philosophical and stylistic similarities of their literary works.

Two of the members of the folkloric group Viva Mexico enchanted the audience with their mariachi dance performance. After a flamenco recital by guitarist Juan Tomas, Margarita Feliciano, professor at Glendon’s School of Translation and CCIE founder, announced the opening of Antares – a publishing house dedicated to publishing fiction, academic papers and didactic materials in English, French and Spanish.

The CCIE is a non-profit organization directed by  Magarita Feliciano, who is a professor in the Department of Hispanic Studies at Glendon and coordinator of Spanish-English translation. The CCIE was created in 1992 to stimulate and promote mutual appreciation and awareness of artistic contributions made by persons of Latin-Canadian origin and other Canadians of different origins. The organization was formed as part of the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Europeans’ arrival in the Americas.

In keeping with tradition, members of the audience were invited to read fragments of Don Quixote and Florida del Inca during a reading that concluded the event.

Approximately 160 people attended the event, including representatives of the Spanish and Latin American consulates, well-known writers such as José Diaz and Ismael Sambra, members of the Spanish-language local media, academics, teachers, university students and members of the Hispanic Torontonian community.