The bread of the dead

07 Dec, 2013 | Christina Grünewald

Culture and Art

Illustrated by Oscar Zalles
Words by Christina Grünewald

1) Wait for the last week of October to have your t’antawawas ready in time for Todos Santos on the 2nd of November—DON’T FORGET to book a slot at your local oven.


2) Buy ingredients for the dough. Don’t forget the masks → you will be able to find them at Calle Max Paredes (avoid the Homer Simpson ones, stick to the traditional faces!).
Also get hold of sugar canes, fruit, quispiña and traditional sweets if you’re planning a full-blown mesa.


3) Go to the oven 2-5 days before Todos Santos. To make the dough, form a crater out of flour and place all ingredients in the middle. Mix using your hands. If you need help you can ask an assistant at the oven; a bottle of Papaya Salvietti works as a good bribe/incentive.

4) Make ladders, llamas, horses, eagles—all symbolizing transfer to heaven—and of course t’antawawas, the bread babies. Place them on trays and leave the dough to rise.


5) Mark your trays to identify them later (you can use a small vegetable like a carrot). Put your creations in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on their size.


6) At noon on the 1st of November set a mesa at your home in honor of the family members that have passed away. Cover it with bread, fruit, beer and anything else you think the spirits might enjoy. Thank the relatives that have stopped by to pray by giving them bread and sweets. If you see flies or other insects, don’t swat them away. It might be the spirits coming to enjoy your offerings.

Christina 5
7) Go to the cemetery on the 2nd of November, ideally before midday. Cross two sugar canes near the grave and set up your mesa underneath. Young and old reciris from the countryside will offer prayers and songs for your spirits in exchange for bread and fruit.



Make a comment