Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Peruvians Prepare “Tanta Wawas” to Celebrate the Day of the Dead

By Pablo Solorzano

Pictures by Leonor Crespo

After I told you about the celebration for the Day of the Dead that takes place in Mexico, Pablo Solórzano from Torres de Lima, Peru, wrote to describe how they celebrate this date in his country:

Here we have more similarities with our Latin-American neighbor. I see we share similarities in negative aspects, as well as in more elevated levels: our identity.

In my country, Peru we celebrate the Day of the Dead with much happiness. Everyone celebrated it, but those people with Andean ancestry do so in a more special way.

Following traditional thought held by Peruvian ancient cultures (I am not only talking about Inca culture; we had an infinite number of cultures), that believed in life after death, people buried their deceased relatives along with their possessions and specific utensils that could be useful for them in the afterlife.

Even though today we no longer burry people in this way, we still take the things they like the most to their graves. That way, when you walk down the cemetery, it is possible to listen to musical groups playing the dead person’s favorite tune; we take food in casseroles, drink to “toss” with the dead person, we talk to them, we decorate their tombs and we also give them updates about what happened after they died.

In Peru, we don’t have skull-shaped breads like in Mexico, but we do have Tanta Wawas, baby-shaped breads. However, in our case we share it among our living relatives to strengthen our family ties and to communicate reciprocity.

My mother, during her infancy in the beautiful town of Ayacucho used to take these Wawas to her relatives. At that time, they usually gave Wawas to girls, and little horses to boys.

These Wawas are made of flower, and its baby eyes with raisins. At the same time, they also adorn them with sugar-coated candy, and sesame seads. The exact significance of the Wawas is unknown. What’s the purpose to give “babys” as a gift on the Day of the Dead? (which is celebrated November 1).

It is possible that you offer them to commemorate the memory of the dead person with something that represents a new life, a continuation, that is a baby, a a Wawa. Yet, this has not been confirmed.

Nevertheless, I think Peruvians will continue to celebrate the Day of the Dead to remember our loved ones, and to continue with the traditions of our ancestors.

Bellow, you will be able to observe the fabrications process of the Tanta Wawas, through Leonor Crespo’s photographs:

First, you prepare the dough.

Then, you knead it.

You knead it good.

You make the “Tanta Wawa” with the though, and decorate it.

Then you bake it, and once you take it out of the over, you let it cool and it is ready!


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