Wawa Bread

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Wawa Bread

T’anta Wawa

T’anta wawa (or pan de wawa, which translates to “baby bread”) is a sweet bread made in the shape of a baby and decorated with a beautiful face (that can be made of either plaster or bread) with a cap. The shape is that of a baby walteado, meaning wrapped in a blanket so that only his face is visible. It is typically prepared for All Saints’ Day (November 1). The traditional recipe for this bread is filled with cinnamon, golden raisins, candied fruit and anise.   Across the Andes of Peru, there are variants of t’anta wawa, which are traditionally always prepared on November 1st and 2nd. For All Saints’ day, it is the tradition in Cusco, in southeastern Peru, to visit cemeteries, to drink chicha (a fermented corn drink, now largely displaced by industrial beer), and to eat at the graves of relatives often accompanied by bands playing very cheerful music. The t’anta wawa was originally a gift to the children who had died. The tombs of the baby girls were given the bread in the shape of a baby, while the tombs of the boys were given bread in the shape of a horse. This practice of honoring the families in their graves, bringing your favorite food and drink for them dates back to pre-Columbian times and continues today. In pre-Columbian Peru, there existed a bread (sanku) made out of corn that sometimes had ceremonial uses, and it is believed that t’anta wawa is an example of syncretism that allowed the ancient Peruvian people to preserve their customs under the guise of following Catholic holidays.   Today t’anta wawa bread and bread horses are also given to living children. There is also the irreverent tradition of christening the wawa, a farce ceremony that gently subverts the rites of the Catholic Church, which was one of the principal means of domination during the Conquest. For the christening of wawa, the attendees dress up and each take on a role as the: priest, sponsors, and parents of the wawa, being baptized with a comical name reflecting the mischievous nature of Cusco’s culture.   Today, much of the t’anta wawa is produced in an industrial or semi-industrial way, and contains an attractive doll, but the bread itself is of poor quality. Sometimes, the breads are also made outside of the traditional production period, marketed to tourists. High quality, traditional breads are still produced by some families in the home. The typical production method was once tied to the use of shared clay, wood-burning ovens found in urban areas of Cusco. If the high quality production techniques and recipes are not passed on to younger generations, t’anta wawa risks becoming a seasonal curiosity, and a cheapened version of its true self. 

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Bread and baked goods

Nominated by:Alessandra Vesta Pinasco García-Miró