Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican celebration with indigenous and Catholic roots. Observed on November 1 and 2 each year, the holiday honors deceased friends and family. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars (ofrendas) honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Pan de Muerto (bread of the dead) is one of the most central elements utilized in these offerings and altars. In Moreles, Mexico, pan de muerto is shaped and baked into different figures, such as animals and humans, and is decorated with embroided adornments made of the same bread dough.
Maria Salazar is a native of Morelos, Mexico, where her parents and grandfather were well known as one of the few people who knew how to prepare pan de muerto, and considered experts at it by members of their community. From childhood, Maria assisted with the preparation, decorating, and making of the bread, and had continued making the annual offerings for nearly five decades. Of her annual participation in this beloved holiday, Maria states, “For us Mexicans, the Day of the Dead represents something more than just venerating our ancestors, it is a tradition that constitutes the collective soul of our community; it is the opportunity to maintain the spirit of unity and identity as Mexicans.”
As a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program in 2013, Maria shared with her daughter and apprentice, Brisa Chacon, the ceremonial, cultural, and social practice of preparing pan de muerto.
Human-shaped pan de muerto made by master artist Maria Salazar. Pan de muerto ("bread of the dead") is one of the most central elements in celebrating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a Mexican holiday which honors deceased friends and family. Maria is a current master artist in ACTA's Apprenticeship Program, with her daughter and apprentice Brisa Chacon. Photo courtesy of Maria Salazar, 2013