It's that time of year!
On any given day in Quito, you can walk by enumerable bakeries with an assortment of bread, or pan, piled high in baskets. Between October 9 and November 2, the piles are interspersed with much more color than usual. You’ll see bread rolls with squiggles of bright frosting, and if you look more closely, you’ll notice little happy frosting faces. These little sweet bread figures are guaguas de pan. In Kichwa guagua means baby, and pan is Spanish for bread. Bread babies. The appearance of the bread babies denotes the coming of November 2nd, when Ecuadorians celebrate Día de los difuntos, or Day of the Deceased.
The name guaguas de pan, a combination of the native and Spanish languages, hints at the ubiquitous intertwining of indigenous and European cultures in Ecuador. During colonization, indigenous ways of paying homage to the dead and the Roman Catholic calendar melded into the holiday.
Why guaguas de pan to honor the dead? Like many old traditions, there is no one answer. Some see the festive bread as an offering of nourishment to their deceased loved ones. Others say that the bread is meant to resemble the deceased. Regardless, the little colorful bread faces put a smile on the faces of those still living when they start showing up in bakeries.
Guaguas de pan are almost always accompanied by colada morada, which directly translates to “strained purple”. This sweet, thick drink simmers and boils on the stove, sometimes for days, before being served. While recipes vary, the drink generally includes purple corn flour, mortiño and mora (tart Andean berries), strawberries, pineapple rind, naranjilla, and babaco. Herbs like cinnamon, cloves, amaranth, and verbena fill it with rich taste.
You can find the delicious combination of guaguas de pan and colada morada everywhere you turn. One tried and true favorite recipe of Quito Street Tours is Mogens Hostel on the corner of 9 de Octubre and Luis Cordero. You can also find the doughy and purple goodness in the bakeries on the roundabout in La Floresta.