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Ecuadorian Andes’ All Soul’s Day produces two of the country’s most distinct culinary traditions – wawas de pan and colada morada.

On November 2nd, Ecuadorians commemorate Día de los Difuntos (All Souls’ Day), a national holiday. On the days surrounding the holiday, families large groups of extended families make their way to cemeteries throughout the region, bringing flowers and food to decorate their loved ones’ graves. Time is spent sharing the deceased’s favorite dishes, and one always leaves a plate for the dead ancestor to enjoy. To the Andean communities, death is just a transition to another life. Bringing what the departed loved most is a way to renew one’s bond with them. In Quito, one of the best places to observe this tradition is in the Cementerio de San Diego, to the southwest of the Old Town, just to the west of the Panecillo hill.

At this time of year in the Andes, a wild berry called mortiño (Vaccinium floribundum or Andean blueberry) comes into fruit in the high páramos. People make the most of this succulent, dark berry to make a very special drink, only prepared at this time: colada morada. It’s a tasty, slightly spicy, thick, hot beverage, cooked with mortiño, strawberries, black corn flour, small pieces of pineapple and babaco (Andean papaya), herbs and spices such as ishpingo (Ocotea quixos).

This delicious drink is traditionally accompanied by wawas de pan (literally ‘bread or dough babies’): bread baked in the shape of a doll and decorated with icing and colorful toppings, and sometimes filled with marmalade or dulce de leche. Wawa is the onomatopoeic Kichwa word for child.

The drink and the bread are full of symbolism: the colada symbolizes the blood of the dead in the minds of the people, and guaguas represent the body.

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