Cinco de Mayo, the USA Holiday Sponsored by Margaritas and Cerveza

Mexican flag statute at the site of the Battle of Puebla.

Cinco de Mayo has always been an excellent excuse to get together with my friends in the Texas springtime to eat Mexican food and drink margaritas. For years I thought that Cinco de Mayo was a celebration of México’s Independence Day. HA! Try September 16th! I was way off. Evidently loads of Americans make that mistake, too.

A few months ago, my journey through México landed me right smack dab in the birth canal of Cinco de Mayo …Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza in Puebla, México. If you haven’t been to the city of ‘Puebla’ in the state of Puebla and you hate churches, don’t go to Puebla! There is literally a church on every corner. Seriously, everywhere you turn there is a freaking church. ***Preacher’s Kid Alert***

Touristy Puebla sign with mi amiga, Gaby Garcia de Betts! Over my left shoulder, a church. | Photo TexMex Fun Stuff

Other than the clamor of constant bell-ringing between all the churches every 10 seconds, Puebla is a beautiful city which is super clean, full of great people and amazing ceramics and food. It is also where the Battle of Puebla took place on May 5th, 1862.

Seriously, how many churches can you count in this one picture?! | Photo TexMex Fun Stuff

You may have already put two and two together that May 5th and Cinco de Mayo are one and the same. The celebration that we Americans love actually commemorates México’s victory over the French invasion during this famous battle in Puebla in 1862. I wanted to learn more about this Mexican situation/holiday that I’d been celebrating with margs and beer in the US since college!

While asking the locals where exactly the enormous Cinco de Mayo fiesta was going down, I was met with strange looks and shameful head shaking. I was genuinely startled to discover that Cinco de Mayo isn’t celebrated in México at all (outside of downtown Puebla, which is where battle reenactments still take place!).

ABSOLUTE ASTONISHMENT! Was this another made up holiday?! Like when Hallmark invented Valentine’s Day or Santa invented Christmas?! Just kidding-ish.

Classic Gene Wilder I Meme: Imgflip.com

It occurred to me that my “research” was going to require a lot more than fajitas and a sturdy liver. I had to do actual historical homework. Damnit! So with a red solo cup full of margarita on the rocks in hand, I headed to the exact site of where the Battle of Puebla took place on May 5th, 1862.

I jumped in a taxi and in my best/worst Spanish said, “Take me to where the Cinco de Mayo Margarita Fiesta was invented – at once!” My completely unimpressed taxi driver drove me to the Northeast section of town…down cobblestone streets (past a few hundred churches), up the Heroes of Cinco de Mayo Boulevard and dropped me at the top of one of the tallest hills in the city.

Cinco de Mayo battlefield in Puebla Mexico.
The view from where the taxi dude dropped me off. Sadly, no margaritas for purchase up here. I Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

There is this whole amazing city park up there that gives you a 360 degree view of Puebla! The ‘Centro Civico Cinco de Mayo‘ park includes two old forts (Los Fuertes), a gondola/funicular ride thing and lots of grass, fountains and multiple museums. I was particularly interested in the lovely gold plated museum!

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Was this really where the Battle of Puebla took place over 150 years ago? As luck would have it, the gold plated museum is called the Museum of the Battle of Cinco de Mayo. BINGO! I knew someone inside would help me understand the significance of this Battle/American/Mexican/Poblano holiday. Sure enough, the entrance to the museum was FREE that day (as most museums in México are) and a delightfully bilingual guide was assigned to assist me in my historical journey for a very small propina (tip)!

The Battle of Puebla museum in Puebla Mexico.
RESEARCH CENTRAL! The Interactive Museum of the Battle of Cinco de Mayo | Photo TexMex Fun Stuff

What is the Battle of Cinco de Mayo and Why Should We Give a Shit?

So my super informative guide tells me that “La Batalla del Cinco de Mayo” is also known as the “Battle of Puebla” and it lasted only 1 day! 6-8 hours to be exact – depending on who you ask. Here’s the backstory: In the mid-1800’s, Mexican civil wars, the US Civil War, general political chaos and fending off foreign powers (Remember the Alamo?) had more or less bankrupted México.

On July 17, 1861, President Benito Juaréz declared a suspension on all debt payments to foreign countries for 2 years to get the budget back on track. Specifically holding off payments to France, Britain and Spain. Well that pissed them off and the 3 countries immediately sent troops to the shores of Veracruz (located on the Gulf of México) demanding payment.

“In this place the glorious Mexican weapons fended off the First Army of the World.” Fort Loreto Circa:?
I Photo: Angelopolis.com

Britain and Spain successfully negotiated with the Mexican government and withdrew their forces, but those pesky French didn’t. French intentions clearly had little to do with a default on a loan. There are two schools of thought as to why:

1. Napoleon III (nephew of THE Napolean) wanted to topple the Juárez government to access Mexico’s resources and, in particular, to take advantage of the instability in the United States, then embroiled in its own civil war and unable to stop a French advance. Ooooooorrrrrrr….

2. The French were in bed with the American Confederacy and together, they figured that if France could take over México, the French and Confederates could have a whole slave-owning empire from the Mason Dixon line all the way down to Guatemala. So Napolean III used this debt deferment as an excuse to invade and overtake México to make all of his slave-owning dreams come true.

Either way, Napolean III directed 6,000-7,000 troops to march from Veracruz to Puebla to take over the city. The grand plan was to then head into the capital…the big beast…México City, for the ultimate takeover.

When invading México City from the beaches of Veracruz, one must conquer the one thing in the way…Puebla. I Photo: Mapquest and TexMex Fun Stuff

In response to this absolute shit ton of troops headed to “Puebla de Los Angeles” (as it was called then), President Juaréz rounded up just 2,000 troops to defend it and most of them were just untrained locals. Hey, they were bankrupt after all.

The very well dressed and organized French army began their assault on the two forts in Puebla. The Fort of Guadalupe and the Fort of Loreto (as I mentioned earlier) sit on top of the tallest neighboring hills in town. The 2,000 Mexican troops were split between these two forts with some hiding in churches throughout the city of Puebla.

The odds didn’t look so fabulous for México, but there were 4 things that Napolean III didn’t take into consideration: Tunnels, churches, deception and rain.

Puebla is also known for miniatures and this is one of the Battle. You can see the two forts on their hills. |
Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Here is where tunnels, churches, deception and rain come into play: Fort de Lareto and most of the churches in Centro were all connected by underground tunnels that the French troops were unaware of. In fact, these tunnels in total are 6 miles long (and had been forgotten about, but then just recently re-discovered in 2014). They are tall enough and wide enough to ride horses on through the whole system. PERFECT!

Back then, nuns, priests and soldiers used these tunnels to get around the city quickly without a whole lotta hubbub or the hot Mexican sun. The Mexican soldiers were easily able to run through these tunnels to and from Fort de Lareto with supplies and reinforcements from multiple churches.

One of the tunnels recently discovered underneath the downtown of Puebla. I Photo: AtlasObscura.com

The French were focusing on Fort de Guadalupe, so the Mexican soldiers defended it by adding a steady stream of troops and supplies from the tunnels under Fort Lareto to attack from the outside. The French forces assumed that they were battling waaaaaay more soldiers than just 2,000. They were surprised and intimidated. The Mexican army was playing the perfect game of deception, literally underground.

The last important influence on the outcome of the battle was rain. May is the beginning of rainy season. Anyone who has spent time in México during rainy season knows when the rain begins every day…the afternoon.

The French made 3 surges throughout the day, but didn’t start the first one until late morning. #LAZY #BigMistake. The second and third attempts to take over the Fort of Guadalupe happened in the afternoon.

By the time the French made their 2nd attack on the Fort de Guadalupe, the pouring rain made the climb to the top impossible, let alone to be able to conquer the damn thing. Luck was a lady for México and after the 3rd unsuccessful and soaking wet attempt on the fort, the French forces accepted defeat and retreated back to Veracruz.

Celebrating living in Mexico.
Yay!

The Mexican forces were victorious in less than 6-8 hours under General Ignacio Zaragoza. BTW, Zaragoza was born in Texas when it was owned by Mexico – that makes him TexMex! He and his troops had successfully defended the Fort of Guadalupe and ultimately the country of México against 6,000-7,000 French troops. So the Prez renamed Puebla “Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza” (Heroic People of Zaragoza).

So, Why is Cinco de Mayo so Popular in the United States?

In the US of A, Cinco de Mayo has turned into a major American tradition and a minor holiday for Mexican-Americans to celebrate their heritage. Massive parades and fiestas commemorate the Little Mexican Army that Could that fateful May 5th in 1862. The fiestas always include a boatload of Mexican food, badass mariachi music, papel picado decorations galore, and of course, boozy treats.

In an in-depth book by David Hayes-Bautista titled ‘El Cinco de Mayo, An American Tradition’, he explains that the holiday in the United States isn’t Mexican at all. It was created by Mexicans living in California after the word spread up to the north of the victory in Puebla, but it has evolved over the years.

“Cinco de Mayo has shifted over time—it embodied immigrant nostalgia in the 1930s, U.S. patriotism during World War II, Chicano Power in the 1960s and 1970s, and commercial intentions in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, it continues to reflect the aspirations of a community that is engaged, empowered, and expanding.” – David Hayes-Bautista

I can speak from experience after working for a beer/wine/liquor distributor in Dallas that today in the United States – bars, restaurants and beer/wine/liquor companies continue to spread the “nostalgia” of Cinco de Mayo. Por que? Because any excuse to celebrate a victory means money! And Corona and it’s parent company, Grupo Modelo are all over that!

Claro que si! That means, Of Course! I Meme: SomeEcards

Here is a bit of boozy history: In 2012 the Anheuser-Busch and InBev clan bought Grupo Modelo, making it a powerhouse booze conglomerate. The US Department of Justice sued the corporation for anti-trust reasons citing more or less that they were creating a beer monopoly. The AB/InBev/Modelo guys had to sell off the Mexican beer ‘USA marketing and imports rights’ to Constellation Brands (who are marketing monsters) to fend off the feds.

You wanna know why America loves Cinco de Mayo? Because Constellation Brands decided to make a shit ton of money every spring. Seriously, they’re worse than Hallmark! Truth be told, as Hayes-Bautista mentioned, the “nostalgia” had commercial intentions leading back as far as the 80’s so I guess I can’t blame Constellation Brands entirely. Just a lil’ bit.

#AmIright? Constellation Brands actually calls the holiday “Corona de Mayo” Ayayay.

OK, soap box moment over. I finished the tour of the museum and headed to the forts to see if they had a bar in one or both of them. They did not. #LucilleBluthEyeRoll. The sun was setting over the always-smoking volcano, Popocatépetl and the city lights were coming on in the city below.

I called an Uber and headed down the Heroes of Cinco de Mayo Boulevard with a way greater appreciation for this town and the brave people (puebla) of Mexico. Now if they can turn a few of these churches into cantinas, I’d be a happy girl!

Papel picado in a restaurant in Puebla city.
Colorful papel picado in a cantina ready for Cinco celebrations in Puebla, Puebla, México | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

National Geographic said it well…”For Mexicans in Puebla, as well as Mexican-Americans in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become a complex symbol of Mexican culture, resilience and character.”

So Cheers and Salúd to Puebla, México; to Cinco de Mayo and to the unyielding Mexican soldiers of the Battle of Puebla. Also, gracias and thanks to the Garcia family who showed us around their gorgeous city and set us straight about Cinco de Mayo! Ustedes son fabulosos!!

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Dance of the Flyers and Birdmen vs. MayPoling and Pole Dancing

The Danza de los Voladores performing in Puerto Vallarta.

The Dance of the Flyers (Danza de los Voladores) is NOT MayPoling (or A-Holing, like I first thought). Okay, it’s obviously not A-Holing, but it rhymes with MayPoling and that’s funny. We’ll get to MayPoling in a moment, but first indulge me as I stumble down Amnesia Lane…The first time I can remember seeing the Dance of the Flyers was in the small border town of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico over 20 years ago.

The crazy fun border town of Reynosa – circa 1990’s I Photo: OnTheRoadIn.com

Reynosa is just across the border from McAllen, Texas and it used to be my old stomping grounds. Me and my gal pals would get our Mexican culture on by singing in cantinas for free beer and/or shots. The town was debaucherous, yet safe and fun for this little 18-20-something to wander around in search of a good time. Plus it was a 10 minute walk across the border – sweet freedom!

One dusty day in Reynosa, I was 2 or 7 hours into a Cantina Crawl when I turned the corner and saw 4-5 dudes performing an act that I had never seen before. I’ll never get that sight out of my head. I know what you are thinking. It wasn’t that….Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty.

1 Flutist and 4 Flying Non-Maypolers in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

If you were to combine: 1. Dancing around a Maypole without the ribbons and 2. The pole being about a million feet tall with 3. Men dressed in colorful, feathery costumes swinging upside down with ropes tied to their waists and 4. A high probability that someone was going to fall off and die, then that would partially describe the Dance of the Flyers (or Danza de los Voladores in Spanish). And then, of course there’s the flute blowing and drum banging.

Needless to say, I put my Cantina Crawl on hold and wondered if the 8 tequila shots had officially kicked in while I watched this Mexican ceremony unfold in front of me. I didn’t know what I was looking at, but it was pretty badass and nobody died…that day. Some other guy did though, but I’ll get to that in a second.

Fast forward 20 years (OK, it’s closer to 28) and I find myself wandering around México in search of a good time again. This time I was in Chapala, Jalisco strolling down the Malecón (boardwalk) looking out over Lake Chapala when the flashback of that first Dance of the Flyers hits me – hard. There were 4 dudes spinning through the air in majestic feathery outfits with ropes slowly lowering them 50-ish feet down to the ground on the shore of the lake while one stayed on top blowing the shit out of an old school flute and beating a drum he must have picked up from a toy store. Luckily my spouse had his trusty GoPro on him. Check it….

Lots O’ Informative Captions Inside Video I Video cred: Todd Nevins!

This time witnessing the Dance of the Flyers felt more peaceful and super cultural. It was the perfect combination of a timeless Mexican tradition with just enough danger to keep the crowd riveted. As I do in situations like this, I bought another oversized margarita and decided to learn more about this whole ritual that I had been referring to as “Mexican MayPoling, not A-holing”. Because neither one is correct. Who knew?

The Dance of the Flyers (Danza de los Voladores) tradition started in Papantla, Veracruz to appease the Gods.

Veracruz is one of the 31 United States of Mexico and home of the Flyers! | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

The Dance of the Flyers was first known as ‘The Papantla Flying Men’ which had started in Papantla, Veracruz as a way to offer gratitude to the Gods of Sun, Spring, Fertility and Rain, and an all around expression of love for Mother Earth. Versions of this were a big religious deal for at least 3 native Mexican tribes in central Mexico in pre-Columbian days.

Now it is mostly associated with the Totonacs. They are/were an indigenous tribe who lived in Veracruz, Puebla and Hidalgo and who used to be the world’s main producers of vanilla!

As usual, Wikipedia has to weigh in…”According to Totonac myth, at least 450 years ago there was a severe drought that brought hunger to the people. The gods were withholding the rain because the people had neglected them. The ceremony was created, to appease the gods and bring back the rains. In some versions of the story, the ritual is created by the old men of a village, who then chose five young men who were chaste (aka virgins!). In other versions, the five men themselves create the ritual. The tallest tree in the nearby forest is cut down, with the permission of the mountain god, stripped of branches and dragged to the village. The trunk is erected (erected!) with much ceremony. The youths climb the pole and four jump off while the fifth played music. The ritual pleased the rain god Xipe Totec and other gods, so the rains began again and the fertility of the earth returned.”

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Anyhoo, when the dirty evil Spaniards invaded Mexico they tried to expunge this tradition from Native Mexican history since it is soooooo not Catholic – literally they destroyed records about it because they thought it was pagan. As if.

The Totonac people of Veracruz practiced in secret (on a 30 meter pole?!) and kept this tradition alive. Now it doesn’t serve so much as offerings to multiple gods as it is used for entertainment and to teach the Mexican youth about their mixed heritage. Plus, it is now an actual J-O-B, like you can make some coin…”Makin’ it rain!”

The Ritual Ceremony of the Voladores of Papantla was officially recognized as an Intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2009 marking its significance in Mexican history and helping the ritual survive and thrive in the modern world.

Me and a Flyer in Puerto Vallarta. Before and after every performance one or two of them collects tips from the crowd of viewers – I gave him a tip alright 😉 | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

There are now Dance of the Flyer demonstrations all throughout northern and central Mexico and even down into Guatemala. For example, (pic above) on the clear opposite side of the country from Veracruz is me in Puerto Vallarta with a Birdman just after here was lowered back down to Earth next to the Pacific Ocean. Nice guy. Always 1 or 2 of the crew walk throughout the crowd asking for a few pesos after each performance and happily pose for pictures. Can’t say what the guy up top blowing his toy flute and drum does with his time, but he probably gets great cell reception up there.

The Flyers intricately wrap their ropes around the top of the pole so as to not die.

The Flyers “wrapping the pole” above Lake Chapala while I drink a giant margarita. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

It goes like this: The Flyers climb up the pole, called the tsakáe kiki, carrying their ropes. Poles range in height from 50 to 100 feet depending on if it is an actual tree trunk or made of metal. When they are at the top they sit on the sketchy looking wooden square frame and start wrapping the pole. They do this by slowly turning the wooden square clockwise around the top of the pole while each rope is wrapped under the next one securing each others’ rope. “Don’t go dyin’ on us!”

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After they fall backwards, the wooden top slowly rotates in a counterclockwise direction with their weight spinning the wooden frame and their ropes slowly lowering them to Earth. Some pretty solid engineering that’s been successfully tested for generations. As long as they stay completely still…nothing will go wrong!

The Flyers are also called Birdmen.

I have no idea what I was doing then. Pretending to be a Birdwoman? I Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

The flyers, much like birds, climb up towards the sun and then fall off of their perch spinning through the sky each representing a parrot, macaw, quetzal and an eagle. The legend also mentions the flyers representing a butterfly, crow and an owl so either way, they are spinning Birdmen. They spin 13 times around the pole (representing 52 years in the Aztec calendar round) upside down with their legs and arms specifically positioned so they look like birds flying through the air. They remain completely still throughout their descent until they grab their ropes and turn themselves right side up just as they touch the ground.

They end up landing like you do when you’re skydiving and haven’t fucked up your descent. Or the wind hasn’t yanked you on your ass with your parachute like it did to me that one time. I would not be a good Birdman or woman for that matter. It’s a good thing too, cuz…

Females were not allowed to be Pole Flyers until the early 1970’s.

Pretending to play the flute that the Birdman at the top of the pole is actually playing. I Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Once upon a time (the early 70’s), a man by the name of Jesús Arroyo Cerón taught his 4 daughters to be Flyers in Puebla…pretty progressive dad! But proving this isn’t the safest hobby/job you can learn, Jesús plummeted to his death during a cultural festival in 2006 at the age of 70. Eek.

Some traditionalists (and even some of his family members) claim that this was divine retribution for teaching ladies to do a ‘man’s’ job. For generations only men were allowed to be flyers. This shitty sexism still exists today since the school for flyers in Veracruz has two criteria to be accepted into the program: The student must speak Totonac and be male. Total bull crap.

At least we can say ‘Salud!’ to Jesús Arroyo Cerón for trying to empower his daughters by teaching them an art form, religious ritual and solid Mexican tradition in a male dominated profession. Bust through the glass ceiling of the Dance of the Flyers – Vamanos Girl Power Voladores!!

Little girls dancing around a MayPole – THIS IS NOT CONSIDERED POLE DANCING! I Photo: Mother Nature Network

Girls trapesing around a pole has traditionally been associated with MayPoling. Just to clarify again that MayPoling is a totally different thing from the Dance of the Flyers AND regular pole dancing. VERY DIFFERENT. Since I made the mistake for so long and since May is upon us, I want to clarify the difference between Pole Flying, Pole Dancing and MayPoling – I’ll spare you the A-Holing…for now.

According to the Mother Nature Network, “The first of May is a contradiction as far as days of observance go. It’s a holiday suffering from multiple personality disorder; one identity dedicated to strike and protest, the other embracing all things spring and frolicsome.

May Day (May 1) is probably best known now for the medieval tradition of ‘dancing the maypole dance,’ a custom that continues to be practiced. Fair young maidens circle the decorated pole weaving together patterns of ribbons in the process. Hawthorne and lily of the valley are traditional flowers used for garland. Similar ribbon dances were performed in pre-Columbian Latin America and were later incorporated into Hispanic ritual dances.”

See how we brought that full circle?! I knew I wasn’t completely that far off. Both customs have always reminded me of the movie musical, “Camelot” when Vanessa Redgrave frolics around singing “The Lusty Month of May!” while loads of young women wrap their ribbons around the Maypole. Lusty indeed.

So some advice this May Day for all you young ladies out there (all you broads too, I suppose)…when someone tells you to stay off the pole…you just tell them to be more specific!

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Paper papel picado flags for all occasions.

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Are you looking for more inspiration from México? Check out the TexMex Fun Stuff Blog for more sights, sounds and badass-ness uncovered while exploring México searching for handmade fun stuff for you!

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What’s the Deal with these Badass Mariachis?

The badass all-female mariachi band Flor De Toloache.

Mariachis are a combo of Western movie outlaws, Mexican folklore and a little bit of rock and roll with polka and waltz mixed in. These musicians are always in groups of 3-10 and dressed up in emblazoned costumes ready to kick ass and look and sound FABULOUS doing it. You know, like Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms and Ned Nederlander?! #thethreeamigos!

“IN-FAMOUS! That means ‘More than Famous!'” I Photo credit: HBO and Orion Films

The first time I was introduced to the concept of mariachis was the 1986 movie, ‘¡Three Amigos!’ and I’ve never been the same. Freakin’ Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short in their matching charro outfits, huge sombreros and musical mastery had me laughing and singing along wondering where the hell the writers got the idea from. “MY little buttercup, has the sweetest smile…..”

OK, so they were more of a comical crime fighting team than a true mariachi band, but the classic scene at El Guapo’s birthday was performed by a group of real mariachis that kill it! Aayayayayayayay!

They’re not the best looking group of musical outlaws, but their sound is perfect!

This scene (as well as “Blue Shadows on the Trail”) prompted me to check out good old Wikipedia for more info on these classical Mexican musicians. I learned that…

‘Mariachi’ is a style of music and musical group performance that dates back to at least the 18th century, evolving over time in the countryside of various regions of western Mexico. It has a distinctive instrumentation, performance and singing style and of course, clothing. To say the least.

Armed with trumpets, violins, cellos, guitars, crazy high voices and charro suits, these bands are torn from the pages of Mexican history books, turning any event into a raging Mexican fiesta. As a matter of fact, in 2011 UNESCO recognized mariachi as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. The listing cites that: “Mariachi music transmits values of respect for the natural heritage of the regions of Mexico and local history in the Spanish language and the different Indian languages of Western Mexico.” And you don’t dick with UNESCO.

A Mexican mariachi band dressed in traditional charro costume perform in front of the Santo Domingo de Guzman Church November 5, 2013 in Oaxaca, Mexico. | Photo paid for in full 🙂

The term ‘Mariachi band’ is also a redundant term for a Mariachi because the word ‘Mariachi’ itself in Spanish implies a group of musicians playing Mariachi music. The music originated in center-West-ish Mexico. Most claims for its origin lie in the state of Jalisco but neighboring states of Colima, Nayarit, and Michoacán have also claimed it. However, by the late 19th century, the music was firmly centered in Jalisco.

And guess where I was now living?! YEP. In the birth canal of Mariachi-dom…Jalisco, Mexico. Time to start tracking down some bands and getting some answers to the question…How did this musical genre get to be so badass? When you hear it…all you can think of is Mexican westerns and Cinco de Mayo parties. I stepped out my front door and started searching…

Hanging out in the first natural place to look. I Photo credit: TexMex Fun Stuff

Clearly my first stop was the Plaza De Los Mariachis in Guadalajara, which is a pedestrian-only plaza in the historic center. This plaza has over 100 years of tradition, but was officially dedicated to Mariachis in 1962 by the then President of México, Adolfo López Mateos. The plaza got a second resurgence in 2009 when Gustavo Ruiz Velasco Nuño invested $7 million pesos (about $350,000 USD) to revitalize the facades, arches and the colonial homes facing the plaza.

Allison Nevins boss lady at TexMex Fun Stuff in the Plaza de los Mariachis.
Caption Not Needed | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Today, these former homes have been converted into restaurants, musical supply stores and clothing/accessories shops for mariachis to buy their unmistakable costume gear. There’s even a tequila and “tequila paraphernalia” store which is where I I presume they stock up and where I certainly stocked up for later.

One thing that I didn’t find on this Sunday in the plaza were actual mariachis playing music. Weird right? Maybe Sundays are their day to drink tequila and cerveza and spend time with their families? Oh well. The plaza was adorned with colorful papel picado flags decorating the sky so I was okay listening to them flutter in the breeze instead. Plus, I had tequila so it was going to be a Sunday Funday with or without mariachis!

Allison Nevins in the Plaza De Los Mariachis in Jalisco. v2
Super cool shot in the plaza taken with my hubby’s GoPro, yo. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

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My next research stop was none other than the town of Tequila, Jalisco – the birth canal of tequila. It’s only a one hour car drive or a 2 hour train from Guadalajara, so why the hell not. Two great tastes that taste great together! I needed to interview an insider and if there weren’t any inside the Plaza of Mariachis for God’s sake, I figured there HAD to be some in Tequila!

I wasn’t wrong (as per usual ;). Here is what I discovered as I stepped off of the Jose Cuervo Express train…or as I like to call it, “Allison decides to drink booze before 9am because it’s all inclusive”:

Forgive my throaty drunk voice. It’s not sexy and it WAS trouble.

IMMEDIATELY as we stepped off the train, these dudes started playing. And playing hard. I was already wasted as you could probably tell from the video so I wasn’t in interview mode at the time. I decided to just record and commentate instead.

This mariachi band’s secret weapon were the two adorable boys in the front. I don’t even like kids (as I mention in the video), but I was ready to take them both home if they promised to never ever talk and only play mariachi music. Instead of kidnapping them, I opted for the Jose Cuervo distillery tour because I was getting thirsty. Again.

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My day in Tequila went something like this….Tequila, mariachis and singing, Jose Cuervo distillery tour and singing, super filthy cantina and singing. And then back to Jose Cuervo’s agave field with dancing and more singing. I was thinking that what these mariachi bands really needed was a female singer (aka me), but what I discovered next was even better…

(After waking up from day drinking in Tequila) I continued my quest to discover how mariachis became synonymous with pretty much all fun things Mexican. In my mind, I’ve always pictured mariachis as these hombres with cool mustaches, machismo costumes and these booming voices projecting Mexican folk songs to party goers. My mind was blown when I discovered an article from the NY Times from 2013 titled, “An All-Female Band, Making Its Way in the World of Mariachi.” Holy fuck, GIRL POWER MARIACHIS!!

“There’s something about putting on a mariachi suit that makes you feel like a badass.” – Mireya Ramos, Founder Mariachi Flor De Toloache

All-female badass mariach band.
Como se dice ‘BAD ASSES’ en Español? | Photo: GRAMMY.com

The New York-based, GRAMMY award winning and all-female mariachi band, Mariachi Flor de Toloache, was founded by Mireya Ramos in 2008 as a way for women to join forces in a safe environment and create and perform mariachi music. They have gone on to win the Latin Grammy Award for Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album and are the most diverse mariachi group in the world. The members hail from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Australia, Columbia, Germany, Italy and the United States!

Although only one of these ladies is Mexican, these worldwide badasses took a musical genre that for generations had been steeped in Mexican machismo and owned it as a path to empowerment, diversity, strength and fame. Y’all know I dig that. #TheFutureIsFemale

Their most recent single was released on Valentines Day, 2019. Besos De Mezcal – ‘Kisses of Mezcal’ was produced by Camilo Lara, who produced all of the music for Pixar’s “Coco” (and I do love me some Coco!).

Mariachi Plaza in Santa Cecilia where Miguel gets advice from a REAL Mariachi! | Photo: Disney’s Pixar Studios

So basically, after all that tequila and web surfing I didn’t get a whole lot of information that Wikipedia hadn’t already told me, BUT I did get rip roaring drunk and made a pretty neat girl power discovery! So saludos mis amigas! Now I’m going to go find me a kiss of Mezcal and celebrate. Again. Ayayayayayayay!! BTW…this here below is a little bonus!

Bonus Material! Tequila…it’s like beer.

I would like to dedicate this post to Ashlei Mars Austgen and Becky Fabra Beach for reasons they know.

🇲🇽 Experience México every day with this Mariachi & Coco Inspired Papel Picado! Buy Yours Here. 🇲🇽

Papel picado hand made in Mexico inspired by Coco the movie.

🇲🇽 Shop the TexMex Fun Stuff Papel Picado Collection 🇲🇽

Are you looking for more inspiration from México? Check out the TexMex Fun Stuff Blog for more sights, sounds and badass-ness uncovered while exploring México searching for handmade fun stuff for you!

Related Posts

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My Lucha Libre Experience – Laughing, Crying & Screaming

Allison Nevins in her Santo shirt at lucha libre.

Before living in México, this is what I knew about Lucha Libre: Big dudes wore masks and capes, flung themselves through the air and fake wrestled. I didn’t have a clue as to why México was so crazy about Lucha Libre, but I was going to figure it the fuck out.

I was wandering through the streets of Guanajuato, México looking for a filthy cantina when I noticed a poster stuck on the window of a pulqueria (more info on that in another post) that read Pagano vs. Psycho Clown vs Rey Escorpion.

Three things were perfectly clear:

  • These dudes looked crazy as hell
  • This event was in 3 days.
  • I was going.
Scary Dudes, Event Soon, Tickets Now! | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Three days later I’m rolling up to my first Lucha Libre fight and praying to God there’s enough cold beer to handle the probable cray cray. This event was in Guanajuato and Guanajuato doesn’t have an auditorium for Lucha fights. It has a Centro de Espectaculos which is a “Center of Shows”. They call it ‘El Establo’ or “The Stable” – and that should have been my first clue as to what I was in for.

This Center of Shows is actually an old rodeo ring. It’s dusty as fuck with crappy old stands, chicken wire everywhere and situated directly behind a lovely wedding event hall where there was a beautiful wedding going on this fine Saturday night.

Back to the scene – my amigos and I were waiting patiently in line in the gravel parking lot to get into said rodeo ring at 8:15 pm. In classic Mexican tradition, any event that starts at 8pm will likely not get going until at least 9pm. It’s part of the charm.

Anyway, at 8:20 three big trucks carrying a shit ton of foldable chairs and beer knock everyone in line out of the way because you know, they needed to set up the ring side seating and ice the beer. Needless to say, the beer was warm as shit, but things finally got under way around 9pm as we should have expected.

Me and mi esposo getting jazzed about what the night had in store! | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

As the opening bell rang, I knew that shit was gonna get real…real fuckin’ nuts. The music was blaring, the lights were dance club flashing, kids were running around like yahoos in their masks and capes with freaking noise makers and the rest of us were going absolutely batshit crazy.

Every time a fighter entered the ring, the old ladies and kids would either shout out words of encouragement or ‘PUTA!’. For those of you unfamiliar, in Spanish, ‘puta’ means p***y. Yep.

The wrestlers were acrobats, comedians, villains, heroes, male, female, fit, fat, giants, midgets, masked and unmasked, but the one thing that they had in common was that they were all ENTERTAINERS. Everyone in and out of the ring including the MC’s, referees, beer vendors, the crowd and this little gringa from Texas were all a part of the big show. I was hooked and now demanded my husband to buy me a lucha libre t-shirt, sweatshirt and stickers from the vendors outside the gate!! And more lukewarm beer.

As I write this post, I have attended 5 Lucha Libre events in 4 different cities in México and I have found myself in a rabbit hole of research as to why Mexicans are so enraptured by Lucha Libre. It has even inspired to me collaborate with my Papel Picado artist in Puebla to create our signature lucha libre inspired papel picado.

Arena Mexico lucha libre fight.
Scenes from “The Big Show” in Arena México in México City | Photo: Castell Photography

There is a lot to know about this sport-tainment. To break it down simply, here are five fascinating things that I’ve learned about Lucha Libre and why it is such a huge part of México’s history and culture:

1. The direct translation of Lucha Libre is “Free Fight”.

Arena Mexico lucha libre event.
The beginning of “México versus the Rest of the World” | Photo: Castell Photography

The word ‘lucha’ in Spanish is “fight”, stemming from the verb ‘luchar’ which is “to fight”.

The word ‘libre’ means “free”, but not like money (that would be ‘gratis’). ‘Libre’ in Spanish refers to a person having liberty and freedom.

The figurative translation is actually ‘Freestyle Wrestling’. And since Lucha Libre started as amateur style wrestling with NO restrictions, anything goes! “Lucha Libre” fighters are free to fight anyway they want. And Boy Howdy, do they!

2. In 1910, Post-Revolution, Lucha Libre became an escape for Mexicans to vent their political and socioeconomic frustrations.

Luchador flying through the air in Guadalajara.
 “Libre” flying in Arena Coliséo in Guadalajara, Jalisco | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

The history of Mexican wrestling dates back to 1863, during the French Intervention in Mexico.  Yes, that was the time the FRENCH invaded – Cinco de Mayo style. Then there was the revolution…

Once the Mexican Revolution ended in 1910, Lucha Libre really caught on. The good people of México were sick of wars, poverty and the unfairness of living in a new situation where the separation between the have’s and have not’s (created by the European infiltration of the indigenous tribal cultures) was widening. The Mexicans would come to Lucha Libre to escape life for a few hours while ironically watching a theatrical version of real life play out in front of them – more on that in the next section.

It was liberating to come into an arena and yell like hell. Yell for their luchadores, yell at the luchadores and yell at the referees. FYI…If you don’t like yelling, don’t go to a lucha libre event.

3. Every match is an ongoing battle between Rudos (Tough Guys) and Técnicos (Good Guys).

The good guy luchadores winning in Puebla City, Mexico.
Looks like these guys broke the rules on that dude on the floor! | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

The Tough Guys are rule breakers…basically the villains. They fight like every event is a bar brawl. They represent any given evil in society and are the kind of luchadors you love to hate. The rudos may represent politicians, another country, the tax man or a company/political party. You know, The Man.

The Good Guys are rule followers and certainly combat in a more martial arts-y style. They play by the rules of the traditional Greco-Roman wrestling. Until they get really pissed off. They are the kind of luchadors you love to love! They represent The People. Unfortunately, they don’t always win.

The ongoing battle between the two is reflective of how Mexicans (The People) felt after La Revolucíon and a general coming to terms that good guys don’t always win. Unfair fights are a way of life. That is some deep shit.

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4. There are also female luchadors and one was actually a serial killer!

Allison Nevins in her Santo shirt at lucha libre.
No, not me. I swear I’m not the serial killer! | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

I love me some girl power and the women that I’ve seen fight in the Lucha ring could beat the crap out of 90% of the men I know, including the male luchadors. Las luchadoras are strong, fearless and dare I say sexy in the ring.

Sure, there is some hair pulling and name calling and it is pretty clear that they have been instructed to “cat fight” since this sport-tainment is based on men’s perception of masculinity, femininity and justice. But it is still fun!

THIS is the serial killer! | Photo: All That’s Interesting.com

One famous luchadora, Juana Barraza Samperio, who wrestled under the moniker ‘The Lady of Silence’ was arrested in 2006 for killing somewhere between 42-48 elderly women in México City. She ended up being more famous as “The Old Lady Killer” than The Lady of Silence, but she is pretty quiet now and still serving her 759 years of incarceration at the age of 61. Evidently she had mommy issues. Big time.

5. The wrestling mask dates back to 1936.

Outside of Arena México where vendors sell their Lucha wares | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

The wrestling mask was introduced in 1936 and worn by Jesus Velásquez. To be fair, masks were a big thing with the Aztecs and that inspired the tradition. However, masks being synonymous with Lucha Libre is famously attributed to El Santo in the 1940’s.

In fact, El Santo wore his mask ALL THE TIME and worked hard all of his career to conceal his true identity. He did not reveal his real face to the public until damn near his death. There was a time when his soon to be ex-wife, during divorce proceedings, released pictures to the press of El Santo’s face. Freaking divorce. His reps denied it was him. At least he was buried in his silver mask…silver lining 😉

Losing a match can mean losing a mask. Playing dirty can mean losing a mask. Pulling off another luchador’s mask WILL mean losing a mask AND being disqualified. Because masks are good.

A mask-less luchador means that in their fighting history they have caused shame to themselves or their fighting partners. This is a no-no. OR that they are just sick of playing a particular character and are ready to put it to rest and take on a new persona with a new mask. This is a yes-yes. Either way, masks are good.

So evidently it’s OK for little kids to storm the ring, but not an un-flexible 46 year old broad. Bunch of bullshit. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Other Lessons Learned:

After seeing 5 Lucha Libre matches so far, I’m proud to say that my Spanish has improved. The last event I attended was a ‘family’ event and I learned that kids also have a lot of pent up frustrations and knowledge of Spanish cuss words that they let fly right there in front of their parents and spectators.

Here is a list of words and phrases screamed out by the kids behind me…Allow me to translate to English:

“Bitch! Fat bitches! You live in a playhouse! My mother fights better than you! Roll him like a rug! Stop crying! Asshole! Nice boots, cowboy! Fuck your mother!” And most importantly, “Don’t hit the beer guy!”

I 100% approve of all of these. And to be fair, old ladies were screaming the same thing. With all of these insults being thrown at the luchadores, it’s no wonder that the luchas start screaming back at the kids and old ladies – everyone gets all worked up! It’s awesome!

5 seconds before a referee told me I was too old to be there. Puta. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

The screaming kids, flying luchadores, hapless referees and the beer guys had me laughing til I was crying and yes, screaming right along with them. Everyone is in on it and everything about Lucha Libre is loud, rude and full of debauchery. Fuck yes, I’m hooked!

Experience México wherever you are in the world with this Lucha Libre inspired Papel Picado! Buy Yours Here.

Lucha Libre papel picado flags handmade in Mexico.

Shop the TexMex Fun Stuff Papel Picado Collection

Are you looking for more inspiration from México? Check out the TexMex Fun Stuff Blog for more sights, sounds and badass-ness uncovered while exploring México searching for handmade fun stuff for you!

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5 Fun Historical Stories About Piñatas

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My Story / The Actual History of Papel Picado FlagsM

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My Story / The Actual History of Papel Picado Flags

Papel picado punched paper in Tlaquepaque Jalisco with Allison Nevins.

So you’ve seen the movie “Coco” from Pixar, right? Aren’t the scenes of Miguel’s village and then the Xanadu afterlife city the most visually stunning destinations you have ever seen? Me too!

You may or may not have noticed that a majority of the color you see in every scene is due to the placement of those colorful banners that wave all over both magical places.

Miguel from Coco loves papel picado.
Miguel and Hector in Xanadu and then Miguel with the clan in Santa Cecilia, Mexico | Photo: Pixar

Welp, actually México is just like that. Color pouring from the sky everywhere.

Coco inspired punched paper.
Coco-themed banners adorning our favorite restaurant in Puebla! | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

My hunt for these magical, colorful Papel Picado flags has taken me from enormous Mexican mercados to tiny little villages and what I’ve found is not only excellent products to export to the US and Europe, but also a tradition steeped in history and artistry, one precise hammer stroke at a time.

Here is the play by play of my quest for the birthplace of Papel Picado and the man with original birthrights to make it, otherwise known as the ‘Robin Hood’ of his town…

One year ago, I was in search of a pueblo called San Salvador Huixcolotla, which is known as the “Cradle of Punched Paper” and is the birthplace of Papel Picado flags. These colorful banners have been a part of every Mexican celebration for decades and are a symbol of México’s handmade craftsmanship at its finest.

Any birthday party, wedding or holiday gathering in México doesn’t get started until the Papel Picado is carefully strung from the rafters and roofs to welcome the party goers and to warn the neighbors that shit is about to get cray cray.

Papel picado punched paper in a cantina.
Traditional flags hanging from the ceiling of a cantina | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

My Story:

I found myself driving on a razor thin 2-lane road somewhere in the State of Puebla in Central México when I see in the distance a man standing in the middle of the broken pavement frantically waving a red bandana above his head. To my left was the majestic ice capped Orizaba Volcano, to my right were 3 dogs running beside my car and in front of me I had no idea, so I slowed.

The man strategically positioned in the middle of the road was actually directing traffic over a shitty one-lane bridge that I was about to cross. Evidently, when the state government of Puebla made this road they didn’t think it was important enough to spend the money on a two lane bridge. Why would they?

This bandana-waving fella’s job was to stop cars on one side of the bridge to allow cars coming from the other side to pass. I tipped him a few pesos for helping me avoid a head-on collision and was over the bridge and on my way to the worldwide mecca of Papel Picado. Yay!!

I had found the heartbeat of Papel Picado, now I was off to find Robin Hood.

Papel picado in a restaurant in Puebla city.
Typical flag placement in a restaurant celebrating Constitution Day in México | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

That sounded dramatic, right?! OK, truth be told, I already knew who he was. We had met several times at conventions in Guadalajara and now WhatsApp pretty frequently regarding my orders and re-orders, but I had no idea at this moment in time that my mind was about to get blown.

Stories sound better when there is more mysticism and general awe-factor, don’t you think? Anyhoo, we’ll just call our Robin Hood friend, “Max”.

Max insisted on meeting me at the outskirts of his village at a point immediately after the scary-ass mini-bridge so that I could follow him in his unnecessarily large truck to his “taller” (workshop). The whole point of following him versus just giving me directions or dropping a location pin (nope, Google Maps and Waze haven’t figured this area out yet) is because there are no street signs. At all. In the entire village.

We were too busy looking up to see street signs anyway! | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Once I entered San Salvador Huixcolotla, it was clear that this was indeed the epicenter of these magical banners. Everywhere I turned, I was shaded by fluttering clouds of color.

Every street was magically draped with these intricate banners depicting all aspects of Mexican life ranging from Dia de Los Muertos to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Basically, like the Xanadu afterlife city in “Coco”.

Coco inspired pink papel picado.
Max’s brother showing off a papel picado placemat that someone had special ordered. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Actual History:

By the way, according to Wikipedia…The Ministry of Tourism and Culture in Mexico officially recognizes and supports the art of Papel Picado. And in 1998, the governor of the state of Puebla decreed that the style of Papel Picado produced in San Salvador Huixcolota is part of the ‘Cultural Heritage of the State of Puebla’ (Patrimonio Cultural del Estado de Puebla). How ’bout that!?!

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I followed Max in my Nissan Murano, which thank God has kick ass shocks, all the way to Max’s taller. His workshop is in the middle of town in a compound which includes his home (which he shares with his wife and son) and other buildings, bodegas and houses in which his brothers, cousins, nephews, nieces/employees also live and work. Chickens, dogs, kids and a cat run around this compound constantly.

I don’t know how any work gets done, but delicious chicken mole and beautiful Papel Picado are made here. If you ever get the chance to taste Max’s wife’s homemade mole – you should really go for it. I digress.

Papel picado Robin Hood of his town.
Max, himself. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

So anyway, Max is showing me around and introducing me to his family/employees and he casually mentions that his great-grandfather is the originator of Mexican Papel Picado. Max speaks no English and my Spanish is barely passable, but I got the jist…His great grandfather was Aztec and Spanish, but he learned this craft from a Chinese friend. Chinese invented super fine paper. They are especially known for creating “Chinese Paper” or as we call it in North America, tissue paper.

Allison Nevins learning the are of papel picado.
Max’s cousin and Me with a chisel…always a BAD idea. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Welp, Papel Picado is basically perforated tissue paper. The designs are commonly cut into colored tissue paper using a stencil or template and small mallets or chisels. Depending on the fold of the paper and the skill level of the chiseler, as many as fifty banners can be created at a time. Check out this video to see what I mean…

Evidently local hacienda owners would import this paper from China and sell it at their hacienda stores – this Chinese friend bought some and showed Max’s great granddad how the Chinese make cutouts and use the designed paper as flags to decorate homes or towns for parties and festivals.

Well great-grandad thought, “Mexicans love parties and festivals…this could work!”

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As many traditions continue through generations of families, Max’s grandfather and father learned the trade and eventually Max was trained and inherited the family company. He employs all of his extended family and most of the town.

The bigger an order he receives, the more neighbors he contracts to get the job done. He says that in the 4th quarter of every year, the entire town is working for him in some capacity, hence the Robin Hood legacy. He is San Salvador Huixcolota’s biggest employer.

Papel picado tools used by the artist to make punched paper.
Max’s other brother demonstrating how he chooses which chisel to use for which shape he is cutting. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Every day, he and his brother drive the completed work of the day before into the city of Puebla to ship off the goods. One hour in each direction and 2 tips for the bandana bridge guy. Every day.

Allison Nevins shopping for the best papel picado in Mexico.
Future Best Sellers? | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Max tells me that tissue paper banners are the best sellers of his banner catalog, but plastic is growing in popularity as outdoor fiestas are quite popular too.

Shiny Mylar Day of the Dead Vertical Flags | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

A few years ago he also started using mylar for a foil-like effect for customers who wanted banners with shine. Obviously plastic and mylar are more durable than the delicate tissue paper counterparts, but Max’s fam prefers to work with the traditional paper. Old dogs, new tricks.

So after 3 hours of demonstrating, picture taking and mole eating it was time to get out of San Sal. I placed a huge order, paid Max in cash for the goods I was taking back to Puebla with me and hit the road. Following Max in his unnecessarily large truck of course, because when there are no street signs AND its dark, navigation gets tricky. Luckily, the bandana guy was still on the tiny bridge and he waved me back to town. That was worth the $3 USD tip!

Experience México every day with this Coco Inspired Papel Picado! Buy Yours Here.

Papel picado hand made in Mexico inspired by Coco the movie.

Shop the TexMex Fun Stuff Papel Picado Collection

Are you looking for more inspiration from México? Check out the TexMex Fun Stuff Blog for more sights, sounds and badass-ness uncovered while exploring México searching for handmade fun stuff for you!

Related Posts

5 Fun Historical Stories About Piñatas

My Lucha Libre Experience – Laughing, Crying and Screaming

Funny S#*t You See In México

🇲🇽 Shop the TexMex Fun Stuff online storefront on Amazon!  🇲🇽

5 Fun Historical Stories About Piñatas!

Paper-mache hand-made bull pinata and a mexican sombrero.

Piñatas have a rich history in México and are typically considered by “gringos” as fixtures of Cinco de Mayo and Mexican-themed birthday parties. You know the parties…where blindfolded kids swing a stick or a bat at a hanging piñata while the drunk uncle pulls the rope?! Everyone has that “Tio CrayCray” who makes the piñata wildly swing up-and-down, making the kids swing and miss as the crowd laughs and spills their boozy treats.

Me playing the part of the ‘Drunk Uncle’ | Photo: Armando HDZ Fotografia

I fully support this kind of party and drunk uncles, but there’s a lot more that goes into the history and artistry of piñatas than that.

Here are 5 things that I’ve learned and love about piñatas while traveling through México in search of the artists behind these works of art:

1. Piñatas were not born in Mexico-“No nacieron en México!”

A very sad bull learning at this very moment that he was in fact NOT born in México. Pobrecito.

Piñatas were originally created out of paper-mâché, pottery or cloth in China for the New Year. They were shaped like bulls or ox, decorated with colors representing the 4 seasons and filled with seeds. Then farmers would whack the crap out of said colorful container on NYE, busting the seeds all over for favorable growing seasons in the New Year.

The remnants of the battered piñatas were gathered and burned and the ashes were collected and kept for good luck throughout the year.

2. Marco Polo introduced piñatas to Italy – “¿Mande?”

Chinese animal pinatas made of paper mache in a market.
Donkey piñatas givin’ the “crazy eye”

It is believed that when Marco Polo (yes, THE Marco Polo) visited China in the 13th century, he saw the colorful clay pots wrapped in paper with figures of Chinese bulls and other animals filled with seeds and liked the idea of it all. Our hombre, Marco then brought these containers of seeds and goodness to Italy, where they were named ‘pignattas’ or “cooking pots”.

The Spaniards (being big ol’ copy cats) took the tradition for themselves in a religious capacity by adding piñatas as a new Christian tradition during the season of Lent. Then they crossed the big blue sea to Mexico where they forced a whole array of traditions like piñatas upon the indigenous folks.

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In Central Mexico where the Aztecs lived and had a strangely similar piñata situation of their own, piñata-making really took hold as an art and a way to making a creative living. Pueblo Acolman is a town in the northern part of Mexico State that claims to be the origin or the “cradle” of piñatas as they have been a tradition there for over 420 years.

Both kinds of piñatas, those made with clay pots and those made entirely of paper are still made there. The pueblo of Acolman also claims to be the origin of the Las Posadas tradition in Mexico…we’ll get to that another time.

3. The Traditional Mexican Piñata Represents the “Struggle with Temptation” = “Ayayay Pecados!”

7 Sins, 7 Points. Get it? Count ’em: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy & Pride – Tempted? Yo tambien!

So one of the changes the Spanish made to incorporate piñatas into their season of Lent was to shape them like stars instead of livestock. Stars represent many things in the bible, but the Spanish specifically made their star piñatas with seven points to represent the 7 Deadly Sins.

The severe beating of one of these star shaped thingydoodles is the literal “Struggle with Temptation”. Or as I like to call it, a typical Saturday night. The blindfolded participant who attempts to beat the piñata represents “Faith” (because faith is blind). The piñata represents Evil or “Satan” who wears beautiful, bright colors to lure unsuspecting (and otherwise non-sinners) to touch said temptations.

If the God-fearing people touch the piñata, then they have fallen into temptation. It’s that easy – just ask Eve or my Mom. My Mom is a minister. Different blog post entirely.

In Mexico, traditional seven point piñatas are typically beaten to oblivion night after night (a new one each night, of course) during the 9 day period leading up to Christmas, which is better known as Las Posadas. Don’t worry, they get beaten after Christmas too. And especially on New Years Eve. In fact, all the way up to January 6th for Three Kings Day (aka Epiphany). Again, a whole other post…One my mom will let me tell!

4. Millennials and Hipsters Have Fallen in Love with Piñatas!  “Si, claro!”

The Happy Couple: Eduardo and Julie Sobrino, Merida YUC | Photo: Armando HDZ Fotografia

In the past 3 years, piñatas have officially gone main-stream with millennials all over the world at weddings, baby showers, cantina crawls, birthdays and bachelorette parties. God bless the youngsters.

Now that piñatas don’t have to represent farmers’ wishes for good crops or Christians’ wishes to battle their demons, we can have a lot more fun with them. Hence the new variety of piñata shapes and occasions to fill, beat, enjoy, repeat. How many politicians, Marvel comics and Disney characters as piñatas have you seen on Amazon lately…#amIright?!

Take this hipster-ific couple in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico (above) who had piñatas crafted to resemble each other for their rehearsal dinner. The highlight of the evening for us friends and family was watching them beat the shit out of each other’s piñata. Then the ring bearer and flower girls attacked the candy and everyone won! Because that’s love. “Eso el amor!” We cheered on the destruction and forgot the entire point of the wedding.

5. Mexican Piñatas are Still Handmade  – “Probablemente no en China…”

Hand-made star pinata held by the artist.
Piñata Artist showcasing his XXL craft in Puebla Mexico. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Tassels aren’t just for strippers. You heard it here first.

Whether a piñata is made from the early traditional paper mâché variety or from tissue paper, cardboard and tassels, they are never machine-made. Piñata making is an art form in México where entire villages are trained to craft all kinds of shapes, sizes and styles to meet every celebratory need.

Mad at Trump? Someone can make you a Trump piñata! Divorce party? An ex-spouse look-alike can be made by hand! Usually though, they are shaped like animals for kids’ birthday parties or the 7 pointed stars to cover the whole holiday season. Either way, they are made BY HAND by real artistic humans who take this art very seriously…so don’t piss them off. Just kidding. But seriously, don’t.

Experience México everyday with this handmade, super tassel-y star piñata!

Colorful Fun Fiesta Party Piñata

TexMex Fun Stuff™ Star Piñata ranked in ‘The Best 10 Piñatas’ by our amigos at Wiki.ezvid.com

Are you throwing a Mexican fiesta? Don’t miss out on our collection of papel picado. Coco inspired, Lucha Libre and Day of the Dead papel picado banners are big strands of fun!!

Shop the TexMex Fun Stuff Papel Picado Collection

Are you looking for more inspiration from México? Check out the TexMex Fun Stuff Blog for more sights, sounds and badass-ness uncovered while exploring México searching for handmade fun stuff for you!

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S#*t You See in México

A guy and his dog riding a scooter in Roma Norte, Mexico City.

So I have been buying and selling fun stuff in/from México for years. I have seen a lot of this country looking for treasures that I think others will enjoy owning.

Along the way I have been entertained by sights and sounds from almost daily parades to almost nightly celebrations and my husband, Todd said that I should really be documenting this for my friends, fans and customers.

Basically, he forced me to start a blog. This is said blog. I hope it doesn’t suck. The plan is to show you all the funny shit I see and maybe educate a little in the quest to entertain a lot. Let’s start slow with a few pix of shit that have made me laugh pretty hard. We’ll get all educationally later.

Seriously, only in this freakin’ country can you get glimpses of this kind of greatness….

Merida, Yucatan
A Bride Climbing a Bar to get the Good Rum! | Photo: Del Angel Photography
Tequila, Jalisco.
There are 6 dudes up there “May poling”. This deserves its own blog post. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff
México City, State of México
Some awesomeness doesn’t even require a caption. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Awesome taco joint …#Goes without saying. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff
Mexico City
Grease is the Word. Or Vaselina, either way. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California
Beach vendor selling Lucha Libre masks. Because that’s what sun bathers want more than anything at the beach.

🇲🇽 Shop the TexMex Fun Stuff online storefront on Amazon!  🇲🇽

Merida, Yucatan
“It’s all ball bearings these days!” Fixing a bus engine sucks, especially in sandals and traffic. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff
Oaxaca, Oaxaca
Oooh damn! That’s a lotta Jesus! Everything your nativity scene needed then, NOW ON SALE post-Christmas in El Mercado. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff
Oaxaca, Oaxaca
“Dock that Oaxacan a day’s pay for nappin’ on the job!” | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff
Teeny tiny town outside of Oaxaca, Oaxaca
A bull and cow parade. Because it’s Tuesday, that’s why! | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff
Hacienda Santa Rosa, Yucatan
Yep, those are real. Most folks can only afford to bury their loved ones in a grave for 1 year, then they give up the space for someone else’s body. The bones of the recently removed get put into boxes for a more “economical” afterlife. |
Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff
Merida, Yucatan
They’ll let any gringo bozo into a bar. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Well that’s all for now. There will probably be a sequel of funny shit I see in Mexico, in fact it’s inevitable. But for now, it’s time to work!

Are you looking for more inspiration from México? Check out the TexMex Fun Stuff Blog for more sights, sounds and badass-ness uncovered while exploring México searching for handmade fun stuff for you!

Related Posts

5 Fun Historical Stories About Piñatas

My Story / The Actual History of Papel Picado Flags

My Lucha Libre Experience – Laughing, Crying and Screaming

🇲🇽 Shop the TexMex Fun Stuff online storefront on Amazon!  🇲🇽