Dulces típicos began very shortly after the Spanish arrived in Guatemala in 1524.
Candy brings back memories of our childhoods and a sense of joy. It is engrained in our cultural heritage. We always associate candy with sugar, which may have originated in the Polynesian Islands over 5,000 years ago. It migrated to India, Alexander the Great took it to Ancient Greece and then Rome, and the Arabs took sugar cane to Spain and Portugal as a highly profitable crop.
Introduced to the island of Hispaniola by Christopher Columbus in 1493, the crop flourished as he reported it grew faster there than any other place in the world! It was first cultivated in Guatemala by the Dominicans at Hacienda San Jerónimo in the 1550s. It is in all of the dulce típicos (popular candies) of Guatemala today.
Dulces típicos began very shortly after the Spanish arrived in Guatemala in 1524. Many of them are of Arabic ancestry, including bocadillos, nuégados, cocadas (cononut candies), mazapanes, (marzipans), canillas de leche (milk legs), colochos de guayaba (guava curls), huevos chimbo (candied eggs), frutas cristalizadas (candied fruit), zapotillos (zapotillo plums), tartaritas (tarlets), quiebradientes (hard taffy), pepitorias (pumpkin seeds), suspiros, paciencias, africanos and besitos, all known as “dry confectionary.”
References to a Confectionary Guild (Gremio de Confiteros) go as far back as 1613. Throughout Latin American, nuns (particularly those from Santa Clara and Capuchinas) made popular candies and other fabulous desserts for sale. With the arrival of coffee to the country in the 1870s, caramelos de café con leche were added.
Popular candies are also sold in front of churches for the local fiestas and fairs. After a visit to the local church, traditional Guatemalan candies are purchased. These include maletas de higo (candied figs), sweet potato, chilacayote (pumpkin), melcochas (pulled taffy) and batido (taffy).
These are only a few candies, as 224 recipes are included in a cookbook manuscript from 1844 dedicated to Dolores Zelaya de O’Meany. More than 90 varieties remain popular today.
While in La Antigua Guatemala, visit the famous store of doña María Gordillo (4a calle oriente #11), whose family received the CNPAG Diego de Porres Gold Award for maintaining the traditional of candy-making in Guatemala. Other popular stores are La Casa (7a calle oriente #20-A) and El Sombrerón (4a calle poniente #11 and 4a calle oriente #24). Dulces típicos have been made the same traditional way for centuries.