ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – While many people will be celebrating Halloween next Friday, others will be celebrating a Mexican holiday that predates is by some 3,000 years.

The Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos is celebrated Nov. 1.

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And nowhere celebrates it in the Twin Cities quite like El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul.

That’s where Jason DeRusha Eats Saturday.

It has become a St. Paul landmark, but the story of El Burrito Mercado begins with a tiny market 35 years ago.

“It was a little 800 square foot grocery store,” co-owner Milissa Silva-Diaz said.

Milissa Silva-Diaz is the co-owner of El Burrito Mercado. Her parents started the grocery store before there was a St. Paul Latino community.

“My dad used to take trips to Chicago, load up a little station wagon with a couple boxes of tortillas,” Silva-Diaz said.

That $10,000 investment has become a huge store, full bakery and restaurant.

And this time of year, they are getting ready for one of their biggest celebrations.

“Dia de los Muertos is a time to remember those who have passed, in a celebratory manner. So, no crying! This is about celebrating them,” Silva-Diaz said.

Silva-Diaz and her mom travel to Mexico to source the symbols of the Day of the Dead.

The ancestors favorite food is often placed on the alter, or “ofrenda,” as an offering.

“I love tamales. But I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never made them,” Jason DeRusha said.

Tamales are often part of Day of the Dead celebrations.

“A lot of families do the assembly lines. Somebody does this part, somebody does the filling, and then they pass it on. Then they’re wrapping and putting it in the steamer,” Silva-Diaz said.

To make them, you start with a corn husk.

“This is soaked in hot water. You want to make it pliable, otherwise it comes like this and it’s very stiff,” Silva-Diaz said.

Then the masa, a dough made from ground corn.

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“You could make your own masa,” Silva-Diaz said. “Or buy it prepared like this.”

Next you fill it.

“My favorite is chicken and salsa verde,” Silva-Diaz said. “And you can do different fillings. You can do beans and cheese, you do vegetarian. And then you fold it over.”

Silva-Diaz had DeRusha try to assemble a tamale.

“This never goes well,” DeRusha said.

And it’s pretty easy actually.

The tamales are steamed for a couple hours, and voila!

“I will confess, the first time I had a tamale as a high school kid I just went in, took a bite and thought this was the worst food ever,” DeRusha Eats

But don’t forget! Take the corn husk off!

Thirty-five years after Tomas and Maria Silva opened a small St. Paul Mercado, the family still runs the business.

Sharing the culture, and the food, with Latinos and beyond.

“I just love that I get to do that through this store. I really love what I do,” Silva-Diaz said.

The Dia de los Muertos dinner is next Sunday, Nov. 2.

There’s live Music, Tequila flights and sugar skull decorating for $40 per person.

Also, Silva-Diaz and her mom teach a tamale class. There are two sessions later this month.

Information is below.

Dia de los Muertos Party
Family Day: Saturday, Nov. 1 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m. (Facepainting, pan de muerto sampling)
Dinner: Sunday, Nov. 2 (Live Music, Tequila Flight, sugar skull decorating, $40/per person)

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Learn To Make Tamales
Sunday, Nov. 23, 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at Kitchen in the Market, 920 E. Lake Street, Minneapolis
Sunday, Dec. 7, 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at El Café y Bar, 185 Cesar Chavez St., St. Paul
Register Here

Jason DeRusha