"small children sat in the doorway eating pastry skulls"
Mexican girl with calavera
Public DomainMexican girl with calavera (1933) - Credit: Library of Congress

These small pastry or sugar skulls are known as calaveras de azúcar (‘sugar skulls’) and are associated with Halloween celebrations in Mexico, particularly Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

The calaveras are used to decorate the graveside altars built in honour of departed loved ones, or given to children in order to reinforce the idea that death is a positive part of the life cycle.