Life & Leisure

Day of the Dead offers hope for crisis-hit Mexican confectioners, artisans

By Monica Rubalcava

Mexico City, Oct 19 (EFE).- Mexican sweet shops and artisans whose sales have suffered since the onset of the pandemic are now making iconic sugar skulls and creating traditional and modern handicrafts from a variety of materials in preparation for the Day of the Dead, a holiday they hope will give a much-needed boost to their businesses.

The edible, colorful and joyful “calaveritas de azucar,” or skulls made from sugar or chocolate and decorated with icing, have become one of Mexico’s most iconic treats and are omnipresent during the Day of the Dead festivities (Nov. 1 and 2).

“We’re thinking that all of Mexico is going to build ‘ofrendas’ (home altars) on Nov. 2 to receive their faithful departed,” Guillermo Jimenez, one of eight brothers who help keep the Day of the Dead tradition alive with their Mexico City-based Dulceria Jimenez Hermanos sweet business, one of the longest-running calavera makers and distributors in this capital.

The tradition carried on by the Jimenez brothers dates back to their grandfather, who made sugar skulls as a pastime in Contepec, a town in the western state of Michoacan.

Guillermo said his father then established the family business in the 1920s in Mexico City and that as a young boy he began contributing to the operation, using a pencil to create eyes for the sugar skulls at the age of just four.

“I learned by working every day,” he said.

Dulceria Jimenez Hermanos produces between 200,000 and 250,000 sugar skulls annually, starting in September and wrapping up in October.

The company, which also sells other traditional Mexican sweets the rest of the year at its stall at the La Merced market in Mexico City’s historic center, was hit hard by the coronavirus-triggered economic crisis in 2020.

“There’s not a single business that didn’t feel it. We worked at 50 percent last year. We closed for three months and only were able to sell 50 percent of what we normally did. This year, I think we’ll be at 65 percent of our normal sales,” Guillermo said.

Other businesses in Mexico City also are gearing up for the Day of the Dead.

Susana Paniagua, an artisan and glassmaker with a workshop on Mexico City’s south side, turned to recycling as a way to create an original product at a lower cost without harming the environment.

“People have been really interested and placed a lot of orders,” she told Efe in an interview.

Paniagua said she was inspired as a child by watching the craftwork of her grandmother.

Now, after having undergone training in different techniques, Susana runs a workshop with her husband that uses recycled glass, cardboard, soda cans, plastic bags, newspaper, milk containers and other items to make jewelry, basketwork, decorative skulls, plates and an array of other objects.

Susana and her husband start making preparations for the Day of the Dead festivities in May and then transition and begin getting ready for Christmas in September.

Though acknowledging that sales slumped last year due to the pandemic, when Mexico’s gross domestic product plunged 8.2 percent, she said they continued to receive business from their regular customers and that the final quarter promises once again to be their busiest time of the year. EFE


Related Articles

Back to top button