KGUN 9 On Your SideNewsLocal News


Local bakery celebrates Día de los Muertos with traditional treat

La Estrella has baked 100s of 'panes de muerto,' welcomes renewed cultural interest and education
Posted at 8:29 AM, Nov 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-01 11:29:59-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — To celebrate Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a longtime Tucson bakery is baking hundreds of sweet treats that carry centuries worth of cultural history.

Master bakers inside the original La Estrella bakery on South 12th Avenue have come in early in the mornings, preparing panes de muerto in time for Nov. 2.

"The celebration is to remember those special people that we have lost and we come together as a family," La Estrella baker and manager Isabel Montaño said.

Montaño has helped her family make these breads for decades and she knows the meaning behind the special additions: finger-like layers, sweet syrup and colorful powdered sugar, instead of the more somber black-and-white theme.

Bakers at La Estrella place extra layers on traditional 'pan de muerto' before it goes into the oven

"We don't use any black because it's not for us to mourn, it's to celebrate, Montaño said.

La Estrella bakes the panes de muerto in four different sizes — from a small loaf to share between two people, to a bread the entire family can eat. Montaño said recently, more customers are requesting this sweet treat in particular, as an effort to keep traditions alive.

Finished breads come in different sizes, all with colorful array of powdered sugar

Customers Adriana Guerrero and Gabriel Parra said they make it a point to come to La Estrella to buy quality foods that remind them of home. "We live right across from a carnicería (butcher shop) and we actually drive over here instead to get the tortillas," Guerrero said.

"Our moms are the ones that know how to do all this," Parra said, "but coming here, it's like you're at home, you know?"

Montaño said this year the bakery's also bringing that taste of tradition as an educational experience to local children.

"We're blessed that a lot of teachers are also interested about teaching in their classroom, this tradition. So, they will order it for their classrooms, for their students," she said.