Semita is a Spanish word that is literally translated as Semite, but is used (at least here in Honduras) to refer specifically to people of the Jewish persuasion. There is apparently a fairly large Jewish population in Mexico, where a semita (food, not person) is a roll of unsweetened, unleavened bread. Which makes sense, because unleavened bread is one of the things Jewish people are known for.
The semitas in Honduras are most definitely sweet. And they are most definitely leavened. Yeast is listed as an ingredient on every package I have found with an ingredient list on it (which actually doesn't happen too much here, but they're always yummy. And don't worry, mom, I am sure they are totally legit still). They also have a very different flavor and texture than challah. Now, I love Jewish people, so please do not take this as a slight against them or their culture. I just do not understand why these rolls are named after them, because there really does not seem to be any apparent connection between the two. They could just as easily be called "Little Catholic" rolls, or perhaps even "Little Islam" buns.
I asked some of my students why they were called semitas, and they ALL told me it was because they look like Jewish people. That perplexed me, but I only received exasperated "ay, miss, they just look like them" when I asked for a more detailed explanation. Perhaps they are referring to skin tone? I just know that I have known many Jewish people over the years, and NONE of them bear a resemblence to this tiny pastry.
If any of you know of a doppleganger website that is specifically for Jewish people, let me know. I am curious to see how many look-alikes this roll gets.