Created to be destroyed

Mexico has a number of craft items meant purely for use for festivals and other events, and often this paraphenalia is meant to be destroyed during or just after the festivities.

Judas figure exploding at the Linares family home in Mexico City (credit Alejandro Linares)

The best known of these is the piñata. It was originally adapted for the Christmas season, but today no children’s birthday party is complete without one. These are mostly made today of cartonería (paper maché), although the past, they were old ceramic pots which were decorated with paper. Most cartonería items are festival items, inexpensive enough to destroy or simply throw away. These include Judases  (effigies of Judas Iscariot often in the form of a devil or sometimes other hated figure) and toritos (bull figures laden with fireworks then run through crowds).

Firework castillos (castles) are tall structures generally made of wood, which are built to hold various types of fireworks to be set off in sequence. This sequence creates images and/or spins parts of the structure. Related to this, but smaller, are figures whose fireworks are meant to move aspects to imitate something, such as a person riding a bicycle.

Video of castillos at the 2015 National Fireworks Festival in Tultepec

While candles have never mean to be a permanent item, those made for special religious and other celebrations can be quite elaborate, with the body of the candle itself intricately decorated and/or with small wax pieces and wire added to make a kind of sculpture. These are made in a number of areas in Mexico, especially in the states of Morelos and Chiapas.

Candle by Graciela Ramirez Lopez of Mexico City (credit Alejandro Linares)

Perhaps the  most solemn of works to be destroyed are “sawdust carpets,” made as a kind of sacrifice.  These are designs created on the ground using colored sawdust, flower petals and other bits of vegetation. The largest of these can cover up to a kilometer of roadway, marking a path for a procession… which will walk over it. This tradition can be found in a number of areas of Mexico, but the best known are those of Huamantla, Tlaxcala. The night before the feast of Our Lady of Charity (the patron saint) is called the “night no one sleeps,”(August 14) as residents spent that time covering six km of streets with their carpets. The next morning, the image of the Virgin in new dress, moves in procession over the carpets followed by an entourage of people with candles and fireworks. All that is left of the intricate, colorful designs afterwards is a jumbled mess to be swept up.

Carpet ready for procession in Huamantla (credit Rosalba Muñoz)


Featured image – Girl striking piñata in 1961, credit GeorgeLouis


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s