Celebrating a Mexican tradition in Nevada

Celebrating a Mexican tradition in Nevada

As Día de los Reyes approached, the bakers at Carnicería La Chiquita were busy preparing to bake hundreds of Roscas de Reyes. Head baker Carlos Almazán and his crew make the ring-shaped cake for Día de los Reyes, also known as Three Kings Day.

Epiphany, or Epiphany, is when the three wise men – Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar – are believed to have given the baby Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

On January 6th, many in the Northern Nevada Mexican community will enjoy one of these roscas with their family and friends.

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A fresh Rosca de Reyes, fresh out of the oven, cools on the counter at Carnicería La Chiquita in Reno, Nev., on Jan. 3, 2023. Head baker Carlos Almazán says he likes to add figs and cherries to the traditional papaya that decorates the Rosca.

Natalie Van Hoozer / KUNR Public Radio

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Carlos Almazán, head chef at Carnicería la Chiquita, adds pineapple filling and white plastic baby Jesus figurines to the dough for Rosca de Reyes in Reno, Nev., on Jan. 3, 2023.

Natalie Van Hoozer / KUNR Public Radio

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White, plastic baby Jesus figurines are added to the dough for Rosca de Reyes, pictured here with pineapple filling. Depending on whether a Rosca is small, medium or large, baker Carlos Almazán adds two, three or six figurines.

Natalie Van Hoozer / KUNR Public Radio

While making a roska, Almazán explained the symbolism behind the sweet dessert.

“I had to shape the dough into a circle, more like an oval shape, you put the little baby Jesus in the donuts,” he said. “The oval shape of the frog is the infinite love for the baby Jesus. It’s been in our culture for a long time.”

Sugar, figs, cherries and strips of papaya in white, red and green decorate the top of the rosca. Almazán explained the importance of colors.

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Baker-in-training Eulogio Martín and head baker Carlos Almazán start work at Rosca de Reyes on January 3, 2023. Almazán says the intensive baking takes place on January 5 and 6.

Natalie Van Hoozer / KUNR Public Radio

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Carncería La Chiquita head baker Carlos Almazán checks a batch of Rosca de Reyes cakes at the bakery in Reno, Nev., on Jan. 3, 2023.

Natalie Van Hoozer / KUNR Public Radio

“He represents the Three Kings, los Tres Reyes Magos. It also represents peace, love and wealth,” he said.

On Three Kings Day, family and friends gather to eat donuts. Some will find a surprise in their slice – a small, plastic Jesus.

“You wait with your relatives, with your friends and family, and whoever receives the baby Jesus, for February 2, which is… Dia de la Candelaria. At that time, whoever had the baby Jesus, the tradition was to wear the baby Jesus, take him to church,” he said. “That person is also responsible for providing dinner, which is tamales in Mexico, that’s a Mexican tradition.”

The small plastic figure symbolizes the hiding of the baby Jesus from the troops of King Herod.

Consuelo García, co-owner of the store, said Carncería La Chiquita started making Roscas de Reyes when they expanded and opened the bakery in 2018.

“Every year we get a little more demand, people know we have it here, so we get a little more customers coming to get it. We sell them because it’s a religious tradition that everybody does, since we’re a Hispanic bakery,” she said.

The first week of January is intense for Almazán and his crew. But the hard work doesn’t bother him.

Natalie Van Hoozer


Public Radio KUNR

Baker-in-training Eulogio Martín measures ingredients on a scale at Carncería La Chiquita bakery on Jan. 3, 2023 in Reno, Nev.

“I like it because I like the pressure. That’s when you know you have to start,” he said.

For many Mexican families, Día de los Reyes is often a bigger holiday than Christmas, he said.

“Typically, Dia de los Reyes, January 6, children wait for their gifts,” he said.

Almazán and his family are looking forward to celebrating with a roska and seeing who gets the baby Jesus.

“We try to keep it, we cut the nuts with my family. For February 2, we just go to a restaurant and whoever took it is the one who will pay,” he said.

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