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La Morena is an Ecuadorian spot on St. Clair Avenue West run by the Rosero family, serving casual and traditional foods from across South America. From the empanadas to the ceviche, the sachipapa to the horado sandwich, they're providing the St. Clair neighbourhood with traditional Latin flavours and food authentic to Latin America.
This year, to celebrate the Day of the Dead (Nov. 2), La Morena is selling their version of Guaguas de Pan and Colada Morada, two items rooted in Latin America that are traditionally consumed to worship and celebrate those that have passed.
"This tradition comes from 500 years ago my friend," says Marcel Rosero, the patriarch and owner of La Morena. "What happened is they used to take out the dead people, the dead family, to take them for a ride to celebrate the Day of the Dead."
Guagas de Pan––translated to literally mean bread babies––are sweet breads shaped into little doll-like figures. It's a traditional Ecuadorian custom to have these along with a Colada Morada to honour those in the afterlife.
The word guaga itself, often referred to as wawa, means baby in Quechua. "When the Spanish arrived [to Mexico] they couldn't do that anymore, so they replaced the dead with the bread. Every single family makes their own bread to celebrate the Day of the Dead. That's the tradition," says Rosero.
Colada Morada, the second item that traditionally goes with the Guagas de Pan, is also native to Ecuador's gastronomic culture. A drink for celebration, it is immensely popular during the Day of the Dead and dates back to pre-Hispanic times.
"They boil down different kinds of herbs and purple cornflour is the base," explains Rosero. "We boil it with cloves and cinnamon to give a little flavour, pineapple, and any fruit you can put in. It's full of flavours, you can feel the herbs."
Traditionally served both hot and cold depending on time of day, the Colada Morada is still regarded as a symbol of a happy journey from life to death and a prominent feature of Day of the Dead celebrations.
Both items are available now until Nov. 1 at La Morena, located at 175A St Clair Avenue West.