Traditional Mexican festival Day of the Dead has caused a division in Wellington's Mexican community between their embassy and an independently-run group named Peace for Mexico.

Community members who previously organised the City and Sea Museum's part in the festival withdrew their support this year after involvement from the Mexican embassy was announced, said the museum's experience manager, Paul Thompson.

"I think they had a bit of an internal falling out amongst themselves," he said.

The museum's colonial cottage manager, Nic Bollard, said the group pulled out in protest because Mexicans were under an oppressive regime,

Advertisement

Antonio Gonzales, an organiser for Peace for Mexico - whose 30 members represent about 10% of the city's Mexican community - said they boycotted the event because of the embassy's official involvement this year.

He said the embassy is ignoring the country's human rights issues: "It's because they usually have a really nice face on the Mexican culture, but where are the real discussions of the problems?"

However, embassy cultural attaché Mario Garcia said his organisation did not intend to politicise the Day of the Dead, keeping it strictly cultural.

"That's what we are here for, to present a positive image of Mexico," he said. "We want to present a good face of Mexico because not everyone is violent there."

Mr Gonzales, owner of restaurant Viva Mexico, who organised Peace for Mexico with fellow Mexican community member Jorge Herrera, said the decision not to participate was a political protest.

He said in the past four years more than 30,000 people have been killed in the war between the Mexican state and drug traffickers.

The Mexican government had not been doing enough to stop the rising tide of crime in his homeland, he said.

"I am ashamed to be Mexican because of this - even kids and old people are dying."

He said the majority of Mexicans in New Zealand do not pay attention to the crisis in Mexico: "They don't want to know because they live already outside the country."

Mr Garcia said this is the first year the museum has invited the embassy to lend their official support to the exhibit.

The embassy supplied and installed a traditional altar to honour the spirits of the dead, and provided refreshments for a lecture on contemporary Mexican art.

They have been contributing materials since 2009, working alongside organisers from Wellington's Mexican community.

Mr Garcia said the museum informed the embassy about the conflict, but did not tell him why the regular organisers pulled out of the exhibition.

The embassy respected Peace for Mexico's right to express their views.

"If they want to politicise and criticise and complain, they are welcome to do whatever they are going to do."

He said the embassy hears every month from people who are concerned about the human rights situation in Mexico.

These concerns and complaints have been relayed directly to the government in Mexico: "They can talk about it with the Human Rights Commission."

Peace for Mexico was received at the Mexican Embassy last week to discuss cultural matters and the group is considering stepping back from its position and working with the embassy on cultural events in the future.

Ms Bollard and Mr Thompson said while a section of the Mexican community did not attend the exhibition and public discussion, the turnout was still substantial.

Some 62 people attended Wednesday's lecture, and Mr Thompson estimated 20 of those were of Mexican extraction.

"It was chocker with Mexicans. There was a lot of Spanish going on there."

Mr Garcia said the exhibit was a complete success.

A poster printed by Peace for Mexico proclaimed the Day of the Dead tradition formerly celebrated at the museum now continued in Frederick St.

The group built its own altar for the spirits of the departed at a church in Frederick St. They also held a themed fundraising party at bar Mighty Mighty last Saturday.