Offering Gifts to the Dead: Día de los Muertos Celebrated at Sunset Park Bakery

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Media, Queens, NY

By Katie Vasquez

Miguel Lopez of the Sunset Park bakery Don Paco Lopez Panaderia fondly remembers his lost loved ones.

The photos set up on this altar or “ofrenda” are part of his Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos celebrations, a tradition that traces back to the Aztecs and Mayans in Mexico.

“They used to celebrate in July, August, but when the Spanish came to Mexico, they joined Día de los Muertos with the All Saints’ Day,” Lopez said.

But the bakery owner says this isn’t a day of mourning, rather it’s a celebration.

“It’s nothing scary, it’s joy,” Lopez said. “Why? Because we feel that the loved ones that are not with us anymore, they come back and they stay with us.”

Each part of the store decorations helps the souls in their journey from the afterlife.

Brightly colored paper represents the wind, marigold flowers for smell, white candles as a guiding light, and water to quench their thirst. 

“We want to offer them the best that we can,” Lopez said.

Even the bread honors the dead. 

The third-generation baker spent weeks cranking out hundreds of orders of the popular bread pan de muerto.

“This small circle is the circle of life,” Lopez said.

Every part of the shop is authentic to their culture.

“This is very traditional Mexican bread, right?,” said Gabriela Miranda, a customer at the bakery. “So it’s not the same in every place that you go.”

But for some customers it’s worth it to give their relatives some piece of heaven on earth. 

“It’s kind of their day on earth with us,” said Anahi Saavedra, a customer at the bakery. As part of the Day of the Dead tradition, on Thursday, the souls will head back to their final resting place.