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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

A new generation takes the helm at one of Mérida’s oldest traditional bakeries

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

For just shy of 80 years, the Panaderia Santa Teresita has been baking up a storm in Mérida’s García Ginerés neighborhood.

The Santa Teresita Bakery on Calle 18 in García Ginerés, where it has stood for nearly 80 years. Note, the current storefront is now in the same building but on the side of the adjacent Calle 11. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

A couple of years ago, the bakeries founder Álvaro Javier Herrera passed away at 96, while at the same time his son Gerardo decided it was about time to retire.

Álvaro Javier Herrera, Santa Teresita’s founder, bakes bread in the same wood oven used today by his grandchildren. Photo: Courtesy Santa Teresita bakery. 

After several long family chats, the family decided that given the COVID-19 pandemic, stiffer-than-ever competition, and skyrocketing energy and production costs, it may be time to call it quits. 

But thankfully for everyone who loves great bread, Don Álvaro’s grandchildren Moroni and Jocabet decided to take on the challenge of keeping their family business going.

Moroni and Jocabet Herrera proudly sport T-shirts emblazoned with the bakery’s new logo inspired by their grandfather. Photo: Courtesy Santa Teresita bakery. 

But the brother-and-sister team has done much more than simply keep the bakery’s doors open. The bakery is now better than ever. 

“We are extremely proud of what our family has accomplished and want not just to continue on but to thrive,” said Jocabet, the youngest of Don Ávlaro’s children.

Conchas and other varieties of traditional pan dulce continue to sell extremely well. Photo: Courtesy Santa Teresita bakery. 

The bakery continues to serve up traditional pan dulce, as well as Yucatán-style baguettes, known locally as pan frances.

But aside from the typical fare, Jocabet and Moroni have introduced several specialty items including delicious apple strudels, thin-crust personal pizzas, and pan de pichon, a specialty from the town of Pomuch in the neighboring state of Campeche.

One of the best things about Santa Teresita’s specialty products, aside from the freshness and taste, is their affordable prices. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

“We respect the old ways and are committed to continuing on using the same artisanal processes that our father and grandfather taught us,” says Moroni. “But times are changing and we need to switch some things up as well to stay relevant and competitive.” 

Apple strudel can be found on Santa Teresitas counters along side with more Yucatecan traditional sweet breads like ojaldras de jamon y queso. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Along with additions to the bakery’s offerings, the new generation has opted to scale back their storefront, moving around the corner but in the same building, to save on energy costs. 

“It was a tough call, but it’s not like we have changed locations or anything, and to be honest in the context of the pandemic our new setup works even better,” said Jocabet.

Moroni, who usually can be found working the counter, is extremely charismatic and always up for a chat in either English or Spanish, making him the ideal frontman for the business. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

But one thing that has not changed is the Herrera family’s commitment to staying true to traditional baking methods, using only the best ingredients and their now ancient stone wood-burning oven.

Bread baking in Santa Teresita’s piping hot wood-burning oven. We are sure grandfather would have approved. Photo: Courtesy Santa Teresita bakery. 

“Staying true to our roots is something that is very important to us both. We want to continue to get up early every day and offer up the best product we can at a fair price,” says the brother-and-sister team. 

Honestly, who does not enjoy a fresh cinnamon bun from time to time? Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

On a personal note, both my parents still live in the home I grew up in, in García Ginerés.

Some of my earliest memories are of being sent by my mother to pick up “frances” at Santa Teresita just a couple of blocks away. 

Given the large number of local business closures caused by both the pandemic and inflation, it’s wonderful to see this bakery continue to thrive thanks to the hard work and creativity of the new generation at the helm.

Three generations of bakers pose for a photo, before the passing of Don Álvaro. Photo: Courtesy Santa Teresita bakery. 

I am particularly fond of the strudel, which has become somewhat of a morning staple at home. 

“Our grandfather came to Mérida from Motul with a single peso in his pocket, I am sure we will find the way to keep our tradition going for another 80 years,” said Moroni. 

For more information visit Santa Teresita’s Facebook page, or visit them on Calle 11 with 18 in García Ginerés.

Readers new to the world of Yucatecan baking and pan dulce should check out our primer on the topic and several of our favorite varieties

Assortment of pan dulce purcahsed in Mérida. And yes, I did eat them all. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Thanks to Yesica Benitez Chan for her assistance in researching this article.

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