Death has a sweet tooth
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
Every year during the weeks leading up to Day of the Dead the Feria del Alfeñique is set up on Plaza de la Soledad in front of El Oratorio. Many vendors offering a wide array of figurines handmade from sugar are open for business every day until November 5 from 10am to 8pm. The brightly colored confectionery figures, alfeñiques, are placed on altars as offerings to the departed so they can return to their world with a sweet farewell. Prices for the candy figures vary widely from about 6 pesos for a small piece to around 300 for a larger, more elaborate creation.
The vendors begin making their wares in June. Doña Amparo Bautista Llamas, who at 84 has been making alfeñiques for 40 years, said the process “is not that complicated.” She said that the candies are made of powdered sugar, unflavored gelatin and a few drops of lime juice.
In order to increase sales, the producers must be innovative every year and cater to the preferences of their clients. Mane González, who started making alfeñiques when she was eight, said that this year the new figurines at her stand are donkeys and horses, which were requested by customers last year. “The most important thing is not the shape,” she said, “but that the candy is placed for the dead.” Víctor Hugo Caña commented that his family has made alfeñiques for the last 40 years and the new creations he is offering this year at his stand are large, colored skulls and drunken skeletons. He recommends eating the candies during the first year, because after that the flavor can change.