Brownsville native releases new children’s book about pan de muerto

It’s a time of remembrance.

Day of the Dead is a time for people to remember their loved ones who have passed, and Vanesa Salinas-Diaz wants her daughter Palomita – and all children of Mexican heritage – to understand that.

That’s why she’s written the book “Los Antojitas de Palomita: Pan de Muerto.”

The story by the Dallas-based writer and Brownsville native presents her daughter and her mother talking amongst themselves while making the traditional pan de muerto.

“I know the Dia de los Muertos for some people it’s not something they want to celebrate,” Salinas-Diaz said. “But for me, raising her, I want her to be exposed to the culture so the book has her making pan de muerto and setting up an altar at home.”

This is the second book in Salinas-Diaz’s series “Palomita’s Cravings,” running on the heels of “Los Antojitos de Palomita: Bunuelos,” which was released last year.

It, too, featured her daughter and her mother, whom Palomita calls “Ata.”

“When she was little, she couldn’t say abuelita, so she would say ‘Ata’ and it just stuck,” Salinas-Diaz said.

“I knew after writing the first book that this was something I wanted to write but write it in a way that’s very simple and sweet, nothing scary for a child,” she said.

Salinas-Diaz got her start in writing as an intern at the Brownsville Herald. She then worked as a reporter at the Valley Morning Star before relocating to Dallas, where she worked for Al Dia, the Spanish publication of the Dallas Morning News.

When the recession struck in 2009, she lost her job and began working with children as an educator.

“I still missed the writing aspect, so fast forward to 2015. That’s when I had my daughter, and I couldn’t find true bilingual books,” she said. “I mean yes, there are bilingual books, but something that’s really touching on to our culture is really difficult to find, so I knew eventually I wanted to do something like that.”

Desire and opportunity don’t always accommodate each other.

She had work and a daughter to raise, so writing time didn’t necessarily avail itself. It would ultimately make itself available when COVID-19 struck, and she had to work from home.

“There was a day, it was just a difficult day that I had, and that night when everyone was in bed I started typing, and that’s how the first book came about,” she said.

That first book, “Chico Bear’s Big Texas Adventure,” turned out to be a sort of preamble to a new writing life that evolved into the “Palomita’s Cravings” series.

“I knew after writing the first book that this was something I wanted to write but write it in a way that’s very simple and sweet,” she said.