T’anta wawa, or baby bread, is exactly that: bread baked into the shape of a baby. The swaddled loaf features a small head that can be painted directly on the bread, constructed from plaster, or borrowed from a doll. Originally, t’anta wawa was presented as a gift at the tombs of children.
These days, residents of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, and Ecuador eat the bread as a symbol of life on November 1 and 2, to celebrate All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. The bread typically includes ingredients such as cinnamon, golden raisins, sprinkles, candied fruit, and anise.
Peruvians have a long tradition of celebrating the dead. Some indigenous tribes were known to mummify their deceased and bring them out for festivals, sometimes painting them and adding wigs. Modern practices are equally ebullient. Singing, live music, and games are all common sights within the local cemeteries in early November.
T’anta wawa is often considered a nod to the mummies of yore, but the traditions surrounding the sweet bread have taken on a life all their own. Cusco’s Festival of the Bread Baby attracts prominent local bakers who join forces to make the city’s largest t’anta wawa. In 2012, they baked a bread baby that was 72 feet long and 26 feet wide.
Need to Know
Artisanal t’anta wawa is being rapidly replaced with factory-produced sweet breads, but the real thing can still be found during festival time in Cusco’s main plazas (San Francisco, Tupac Amaru, Santiago, and San Sebastian).