A Look Inside: Dia De Los Muertos

Published: Oct. 9, 2023 at 7:27 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - El Dia De Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday where families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drink and celebration. The Ice Cream and Bakery Shop on Birch Street, formerly know as Sue’s Bakery, opened earlier this summer and will be hosting a “Day of the Dead” celebration on Sunday, October 29th. Hello Wisconsin’s Bob Gallaher and photojournalist Jeff Ralph take “A Look Inside” the making of Pan de Muerto, the holiday’s signature bread.

“We celebrate those who have passed and remember the things they loved to do and this tradition has gone on for centuries.”

Felix Marquez has been rolling out the dough for Pan de Muerto or “bread of the dead” for more than three decades. Marquez welcomed us into his kitchen to watch the shaping and baking of bread that represent the skulls of the deceased, a way to entice them to come back to the land of the living.

“The smell of the flowers, the bread, the food, the tamales, it’s for the people who died.”

Co-owner Mayret Aca-Martinez says the loaf of bread is placed on the ofrendas or altar as an offering to your loved ones who have passed on, her daughter Maya explains how each Pan de Muerto is filled with symbolism.

“Hojaldra is they type of shape that the bread is made into and the bigger figurines on top are the bones of a person. And there are four sides of it that represents fire, earth, air and water, and that’s kind of the stages that we go through,” says Maya.

The bread is meant to nourish the dead when they return to the land of the living during Dia De Los Muertos. A shrine that includes their favorite beverages, food and garlands of bright marigolds. A flower that symbolizes the brevity of life.

“It’s a marigold, in Mexico it’s only known as the flower for De Los Muertos, the smell and the colorful yellow is very symbolic of the day of the dead.”

Maya says the ofrendas are a reminder that life is eternal and that presence of the deceased loved one is everlasting.

“Right here in the center where the photo of our loved one would always be at. And then we would have the bread or the Pan de Muerto that we made today and then a drink, their favorite drink or water is also put on the ofrenda because of the long walk that they had to go through to come over here.”

Dia De Los Muertos coincides with All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day on November 1st and 2nd. A time of celebration, to re-connect and honor those who have gone before us.

“My grandma, I didn’t know her but we still do an ofrenda because they are people we cherish, the people that we know about and I think it’s very important to still have them in our lives,” explains Maya.

The Ice Cream and Bakery Shop will be hosting an El Dia De Los Muertos celebration coming up on Sunday, October 29th, located at 1319 Birch Street in Eau Claire from 4-7 pm. It’s for all ages! And there will be plenty of Pan de Muerto.