Colada Morada and Guagas de Pan: The Past, Present and Future of Ecuador’s Day of the Deceased
As is the case for all of its artistic and religious traditions, the Day of the Deceased offers visitors a blend of Quito’s pre-colonial indigenous customs and its Spanish colonial past. Celebrated on 2nd November each year, it is a day in which people of all social classes in the country remember their ancestors and pay their respects to the dead, while sharing family history with their children in order to ensure their knowledge of their past as preparation for their future. The holiday started out as an indigenous celebration of life, in a culture which believes to this day that death should be marked with festivities because the person who dies simply passes on to a better existence and should be accompanied by friends, family, food and spirit on that journey.
Each day on 2nd November, families gather around the graves of their loved ones and enjoy a graveside picnic of colada morada and guagas de pan. The preparation of these ritual foods has traditionally been a family event in and of itself. Women sit around communal tables preparing all of the ingredients and remembering their loved ones. Recipes for colada morada – a thick, purple-colored beverage originally made of purple-corn, Andean blueberries (mortiños) and other native grains, root vegetables and fruits – were passed down from generation to generation at these events. Colonial influences added the sweetness of sugar cane (panela) and the occasional use of corn starch or other starches that facilitate the day-long process of making the drink. Most versions also include pieces of regional fruits (strawberries, babaco, golden gooseberries and others, depending on the region) that are cut up and added to the beverage at the end. The purple colour denotes mourning.
The bread dolls (guaguas de pan) represent a more recent addition to the tradition, as wheat flour did not form a part of the Andean diet until the Colonial period. Forming and decorating the dolls is a favourite activity for children in traditional households and each one adds a different touch by filling the dolls with mixtures that range from sweet (guayaba paste, blackberry jam, figs, chocolate or dulce de leche) to savoury (cheese or pumpkin puree) and decorating them with coloured icings.
For those who prefer to remember their ancestors in more cosy quarters, the holiday offers the perfect opportunity to invite friends over to one’s home to share a bowl or cup of colada morada with a guagua while debating over the merits of each one’s recipe. Our gastronomic director, Byron Rivera, breaks his silence over his secret recipe to share it here with you, who are part of our extended family. Get together with your family and friends and enjoy this delicious Ecuadorian tradition!
Colada Morada Recipe
- 4 l water
- 250 gr purple corn flour
- 500 gr blueberries (mortiño)
- 250 gr blackberries (mora)
- 1 fresh pineapple, cut into small cubes
- 8 naranjillas
- 1 lb strawberries, cut into small pieces
- 1 babaco, cut into small pieces
- 5 cloves
- 5 ishpingos
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 2 Cups sugar
- 2 orange leaves
- Fresh or dried lemongrass
- Dehydrated cane sugar (panela) or white sugar, to taste
In a pot, boil 4 litres of water with the spices: cloves, cinnamon, ishpingo, allspice, orange leaves and lemongrass. After it has reached a boil, strain and reserve the liquid.
Cook the purple corn flour after soaking it in 300 ml of water.
In another pot, cook the pieces of fruit (pineapple, strawberry and babaco) with sugar and then allow to rest at room temperature.
Blend the blueberries, naranjilla and blackberries with no water or just enough to facilitate blending. Strain and reserve the juice.
To the herb and spice-flavoured water prepared in STEP 1, add the juice of STEP 4 made from blueberries, naranjilla and blackberries. Cook over a low flame, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Slowly add the cooked purple corn flour and stir. Boil until the mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Then, turn off the heat, stir in the fruits from STEP 3, and add dehydrated cane sugar (panela) or white sugar to taste.
Recipe for 20 portions.