A piñata renaissance is booming in Mexico, and the man behind it is a twenty-eight-year-old named Dalton Ávalos Ramírez. For their craftsmanship and raw wit, his piñatas have achieved special notoriety, not just in his home town but on the Internet. You’ve probably seen one of them without knowing it.
The celebrities he has skewered— Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Ted Cruz, Trump—have all been, at various points, detested in Mexico. Cyrus wrapped her bare backside in a Mexican flag during a concert a few years ago; and Trump insulted Mexicans everywhere during the announcement of his Presidential bid. Each one has earned a place in Ramirez’s pantheon of cardboard villainy. Using wire skeletons covered in painted papier-mâché, Ramírez freezes these celebrities in a state of snarling buffoonery so that his indignant customers can—in an act of casual catharsis—beat them to a pulp.
“When I get really into the careful work, I forget that people are going to break the piñatas,” Ramírez says. His family has been in the piñata business for longer than Ramírez has been alive; his father, who also worked as a magician, designed giant models of King Kong for the circus.
Ramírez has also made piñatas of the drug kingpin El Chapo Guzman (complete with the dirt-caked T-shirt that he was wearing when captured), the actress and El Chapo confidante Kate del Castillo, and Enrique Peña Nieto, the president of Mexico. In Houston, an art museum invited him across the border to make a Hillary Clinton piñata. He couldn’t make it to Texas, but the intentions behind the offer were never entirely clear, either: Was he being enlisted for an artistic attack ad or anointed as a political portraitist? Ramírez makes his piñatas in an innocent, if winking, spirit. To him, they are more like celebrity profiles than props in a tradition of low-grade aggression.