Promoting Mexican Culture in Manitoba: An Interview with Adriana Zagrodnik

For years, the Mexican Pavilion has promoted Mexican culture in Manitoba. The pavilion exceeds visitors’ expectations with the dazzling entertainment, delicious Mexican gastronomy, lively late night parties, and popular marketplace.

It is thanks to the passionate volunteers who work tirelessly to make the annual fiesta a great success. We caught up with Adriana Zagrodnik, Pavilion Coordinator, to learn more about the history of this beloved pavilion.

How did you first get involved in Folklorama? Tell us a bit about your Folklorama journey.

The first time I attended the festival was in 1997, the year I arrived in Canada. My husband took me and I was extremely excited. We attended various pavilions, the first one being the Ukraine pavilion. I asked my husband if there was a Mexican pavilion because I wanted to visit it if there was. He told me that there was no Mexican pavilion, which shocked me. I immediately told him that I would be the one to implement a Mexican pavilion into the festival. I told him this in 1997, at this time there was no association, and I personally did not know any other Mexicans as I was the only one living in Fisher Branch at that time. It took ten years for me to put my foot in the door and coordinated the first Mexican pavilion with a group of dedicated Mexicans living in Winnipeg.

Our first pavilion became possible with the assistance of the Paraguay community who let us borrow their stage and all their equipment in order for us to have a successful first pavilion. I coordinated the first pavilion in 2007, and then again in 2009, 2010 and 2011. I retired from coordinating the pavilion for a few years. The association invited me to become a coordinator once again. I accepted the invitation and proposed that we choose the Winnipeg Convention Centre as a venue. This was always an idea of mine, but it took many years for me to take the leap as this was a much bigger venue than the usual hockey arena venues that we were used to. With the support of the association and team members encouraging me that it is possible we were able to coordinate three pavilions at the Convention Centre in the years of 2016, 2018 and 2019.

Why do you choose to dedicate countless hours being coordinator of your pavilion?

Being an active part of my community is of great importance to me. I began by organizing the Mex y Can association of Manitoba Inc. with a group of individuals. I have enjoyed the festival throughout all these years. It brings a piece of home back to Winnipeg and I believe our entire community really enjoys that aspect. Our own music, dance and traditions is what energizes our community. Having various dance groups come to display dances and music all the way from Mexico and support our projects in Manitoba has pushed me to be involved in the community greatly. The days planning ahead and during the pavilion are extremely long and countless hours have been put into every pavilion. Everyone involved in the pavilion basically spends a week straight at the venue making sure everything is put together for the next show and the following day.

Tell us something unique about the Mexican Pavilion/your culture! What’s your favourite thing?

Something that I find very unique to our pavilion is the number of entertainers that are part of the pavilion that we bring from Mexico. We bring around 25 people in total including, dancers, singers, artisans and chefs all the way from Mexico to be a part of the experience for one week here in Winnipeg.

Share a favourite Folklorama memory!

MY favourite part about folklorama is seeing everyone’s smiling faces during the shows and during the festival including participants, the public and in general how much everyone loves being a part of the festival and our pavilion. I love hearing all the positive comments after a show about the performers, the food and of course the bar. Another one of my favourite parts is bringing the Mexican community together and getting to meet the new faces that have recently moved to Winnipeg.

If someone was interested in becoming a pavilion coordinator, what advice would you give them?

My first piece of advice for someone wanting to involve themselves in the coordinator role is to not be discouraged. Folklorama is a huge support and basically holds your hand throughout the entire process and are always there for any directions you need assistance with. Another piece of advice is that you need to be ready for a large commitment putting countless hours in to planning months before the show and countless hours in during the week of the festival.

Interested in joining a network of over 20,000 volunteers? Visit our website to find out how you can become a volunteer today.