Halloween and Dia de los Muertos in Cusco

Halloween and Dia de los Muertos in Cusco

Last night, for Halloween, we filled a giant bag with candy and went to the Plaza de Armas. The Plaza was packed with families!

All my pics are dark & blurry, so I’ll just share two to give you a feel for the event.

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We made our way through the mob and  found a spot to sit by the fountain. As soon as I opened our bag of candy we were swarmed by smiling children. Each child held out a tiny plastic pumpkin, and said “HALLoween!” or sometimes “Feliz HALloween!”

A few vendors stopped by, offering knitted hats or whatnot, and I gave them candy, too.

When the candy was gone, we found a restaurant with a balcony overlooking the plaza and watched the mob. It was the most people I’ve ever seen in the plaza!

The next two days are holidays: All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, or Dia de los Muertos. The souls of dead relatives are believed to be very close at this time. Families take a traditional picnic of roast pork and tamales, along with special breads in the shapes of babies (T’anta Wawa) and horses (to transport the souls to the higher plane) to the cemetery and picnic on the graves. They decorate the graves with flowers, ribbons, and religious paintings, and leave food behind for the ancestors when the meal is done.

Craig and I decided to walk to San Pedro market to buy a special bread and some flowers to share with our mothers. When we reached the plaza in front of the San Francisco church, we found a festival. Luckily I had my camera. (trigger warning for vegetarians: photos of roast pigs ahead!)

Booth after booth offered roast piglet (Lechon) and tamales to eat on the spot. At first I was horrified by the whole baby pigs, but after a while they started looking kind of succulent and delicious to me… like BBQ, or Carnitas!
But sitting out all day at room temp, no refrigeration = Not safe for gringos.
These are the T’anta Wawa, or Pan Wawa (wawa means baby in Quechua, isn’t that adorable?) They have plastic faces and sometimes bits of candy tucked in the front.
The plaza was filled with booths selling these, along with divinity cookies and other tasty baked goods. The market was packed with them as well.
Dozen of vendors had whole roast piglets and tamales to offer, for your traditional graveside picnic.
Near the market, everyone was carrying flowers they had purchased for their loved ones’ graves.
The city of Cusco is famous for creating this giant Tanta Wawa every year. We arrived just as the priest was getting ready to bless it.
After the blessing, the giant bread was cut up and served to the people. On the left of the photo you can see the plastic face and ruffled hat of the “baby” whose blanket-wrapped body is represented by the bread.
Near the market, we always see lots of street vendors. This wheelbarrow setup to sell fresh pineapple is typical.
One of the oddest things I’ve seen on a street stall. those are live snails, climbing on damp rocks in the Tupperware dish. Next to that are some lotions for sale. Snail slime for your skin? We’re not sure.
Another typical street food: quail eggs. They are served in little plastic bags, with some kind of condiments. Haven’t had the courage to try this yet.
This is the Tanta Wawa and flowers that Craig and I bought to share with our mothers. Since we couldn’t visit our mothers’ graves, we decided to nibble on the bread in a park, where we could leave some on the ground to share.


We left behind some bread and flower petals for our moms. Enjoy, Moms!
I’m pretty sure my mom is complaining to Craig’s mom that I didn’t give her any tamales. She loved tamales. I might have to go back tomorrow!

Published by Lauren

I'm a nomadic freelance writer, out enjoying the world!


  • Sue Guetterman

    November 1, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Very interesting. I did not realize that they would be celebrating Halloween there…..especially with plastic pumpkins. . Looks like you had better weather than we did. We had rain :(.

    The pigs were interesting. Reminds me of Hicks BBQ in Belleville or the October Pork Fest in O’Fallon.

    I am sure your Moms were just happy that you remembered them at such a special time. My mom would have liked burrito supreme with a margarita 🙂

  • Lauren

    November 1, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Oh, I’m sorry to hear it rained there! I wish we had a big public plaza back home, I think it was more fun than sitting in your house waiting…Looked like fun for the kids, too.

    According to the Peruvians, your mom is close to you today & tomorrow. You should go out for a margarita & a burrito tonight!

    (oddly enough, most of the “American” foods Craig and I miss and crave are from our favorite Mexican restaurants back home! LOL)

  • Debbie Carter

    November 2, 2013 at 12:58 am

    I am so with you in spirit. It does look like fun and I know the places you speak of. LOL Wish I was there.

  • Lauren

    November 2, 2013 at 11:56 am

    You would have loved every minute of it, Debbie!