October 31, 2008

Dead Bread

Used to be, you could count on pan muerto, or dead bread, made for Day of the Dead celebrations. It was a round load, sometimes a mini loaf, baked dark brown, almost burned, and simply covered in granulated sugar. It was "designed" to sweeten the bitter we taste when a love one has died.
Many of the Day of the Dead rituals surrounding All Saints Day were similarly conceived. There was nothing pagan about it. Halloween, on the other hand, is based on pagan concepts.
So when I went to get pan muerto for Eriso's family and myself, I was mildly shocked. I wish I had a camera with me.
There were squash, not pumpkin, shaped faces with mouths wide open and eye holes and mouth holes filled with pudding. Ugh. The shop owner pointed and smiled. "Halloween," she said. I smiled. I had already reconsidered going to Centro for a treck amongst the overserved.
I don't celebrate Halloween. As a rural kid, I never cared for dragging my mother door to door in the rain, but it was expected. You had to bring your candy to school and show off and share.
Honoring the dead and the survivors had nothing to do with it. Isla Mujeres and Cancun are being changed by the gringos here, with places like Walmart introducing orange plastic jack-o-lanterns for trick-or-treating which in Centro is likely to last a week, because Americans think it's cute.
Try giving those kids candy and see what happens! They get it every day. No, they'll be begging for pesos even though most get some discretionary pesos, too.
Eriso thanked me for the pan muerto to take to Debora and his three kids. They won't be trick or treating tonight, an ugly night following a gray afternoon. They'll be sipping hot chocolate or sweetened corn milk, eating their sweet breads, and recalling children who didn't make it. That is what Day of the Dead Children and Day of the Dead are supposed to be about. Not dressing up to frighten folks or to win money, but to honor the dead, those who survive and mocking "Death."

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