The current Mexican piñata represents evil and how bad it must be hit: with rage.
This tradition remains alive in Mexico, with its original roots well planted, but also with changing elements. Today it’s easy to find piñatas of all kinds in Mexico: characters from brands like Disney and Marvel, surreal animals and even politicians.
On a cultural center in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, a municipality in the periphery of the City of Mexico where music, theater and plastic art workshops are given, there’s a model of piñata with the face of the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto. Around it are cardboard, brushes, glue and tape.
“Why do we make a character in the piñata that means evil, that’s doing us wrong?” Says Yolanda Fernandez, a member of Los Zurdos, a theater group, who have been working since 1994, in the context of the Chiapas Zapatista uprising for a free and autonomous culture. “For revenge,” Fernandez answer.
Fernandez remembers that the symbology of the piñata is to break the evil.
Figures of mules and bulls adorned with paper were broken at the end of the Chinese year with sticks adorned with different colors and scattering seeds off their interior. This tradition passed through Marco Polo to Europe and to Spain in particular.
The Mexica villages placed a pot, decorated with feathers and filled with small treasures, in the temple of the divinity Huitzilopochtli. When it was broken, the offering fell at the feet of the god.
The Mayans had a sport in which they blindfolded a person to hit a suspended pot.
With the arrival of the Spanish friars to Mexico, they created the first piñatas with peaks like a star to symbolize the capital sins. The first piñata, thus, arose in the Mexican municipality of Acolman, which is located near what today is Nezahualcóyotl.
“Now, instead of the seven deadly sins, we put the one who’s screwing with us” explains Yolanda Fernández.
Fernandez prepares the materials to assemble the piñata while telling the story of her theatre group. There seems to be no thing that Los Zurdos does not make: painting, stilts, music, plastic arts with different materials (they make their masks and costumes themselves).
All of their artistic activities have a political content, because they do not believe in art for art or in the de-politicization of aesthetics.
Los Zurdos have taken their piñatas to various political activities, whether in the Zapatista communities, as shown in the following video: