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Check out the baked treat that helps Mexicans celebrate El Dia de los Muertos
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Pan de Muertos is a type of pastry prepared during the weeks leading up to Dia de los Muertos. Panaderia La Esperanza Bakery is one of the bakeries in Gainesville that prepares this pastry for Dia de Los Muertos. - photo by Austin Steele

El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday meant to celebrate family and friends who have died.

On Nov. 1 and 2, after all the costumes have been hung up and the candy is being consumed, Mexicans begin eating pan de muerto, a sweet bread made during the holiday and meant to be shared with family.

You can find pan de muerto in just about any Mexican bakeries. In Gainesville, La Esperanza Panaderia in midtown and Panaderia La Esperanza Bakery on Atlanta Highway, spend a lot of time making sure customers have just what they need for the holiday.

“We have bakers that come in at 10 at night and work until seven in the morning, just making sure the bread is fresh by the time the store opens,” said Osiel Altamirano, whose father owns La Esperanza Panaderia.

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Humberto Sandoval, a baker at Panaderia La Esperanza Bakery, works with dough on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Panaderia La Esperanza is one of the bakeries in Gainesville that prepares this pastry for Dia de Los Muertos. - photo by Austin Steele

Instead of mourning, those who observe El Dia de los Muertos choose to celebrate the lives lived by those they knew. The first day of the holiday is meant for remembering children while the second day is meant for adults.

Zeiry Carrillo, whose parents own Panaderia La Esperanza Bakery, said when the holiday originated, the bread was made and taken to the graves of those who had died.

“They believe their spirits came and ate the food they provided,” Carrillo said. “But later on, they just made it to eat themselves.”

Oftentimes, there’s somewhat of a feast with the favorite dishes of the ones families are remembering, but the one constant among all families in the celebration is pan de muerto.

The bread comes in a wide variety of styles. There are different sizes and colors as well as toppings. Some are plain, but some come dusted with sugar or sprinkles.

Altamirano said he likes to enjoy it with hot chocolate.

“It’s just remembering the people who have passed before you and also just being around family,” Altamirano said.

At his family’s store, the bakers only make pan de muerto during a two-week period leading up to the holiday.

“They make so much of it because a lot of people like it and they just buy big pieces and slice them up with their family,” Altamirano said.

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Humberto Sandoval, a baker at Panaderia La Esperanza Bakery, works with dough on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Panaderia La Esperanza is one of the bakeries in Gainesville that prepares this pastry for Dia de Los Muertos. - photo by Austin Steele

The ingredients are pretty simple. Carrillo said it’s just flour, egg, sugar, cinnamon, yeast and salt. But it’s the special shape that distinguishes it from everything else.

Pan de muerto is baked in a bun shape, similar to a regular, round loaf of bread from the bakery.

On top, though, pan de muerto usually has dough shaped like bones and sometimes even a skull.

“It’s a day that’s special back in Mexico,” Altamirano said.

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Panaderia La Esperanza Bakery offers a variety of pastries and other grocery goods. - photo by Austin Steele
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