Material Culture – Hispanic

“My dad is of Hispanic background and it was traditional at all birthday parties when he was growing up to have a piñata. It was the highlight of the birthday party for him and his seven brothers and sisters. Although my mom knew nothing about piñatas as her parents were British and American it still become a real family tradition and was carried on to myself and my sister. Since I have had my own three children and many grandchildren it has continued to be a must at every event. Not only do we have a piñata at every birthday celebration but we now have it at almost all family celebrations. At Christmas time we always get a piñata of a tree or a Santa and most recently at a pre wedding dinner for my daughter located in Rosarito beach we had one of a bride and groom. The local children in Rosarito beach heard the fun and commotion that was going on and waited for it to be broken so they could get some of the candy. I always make sure that a small gift is put amongst the candy so that the person who finally gets it can enjoy the excitement of getting the gift. Having a piñata at every get together has become the highlight of every event. Even selecting the right piñata generates excitement and enjoyment”. (Jane Munce)

Although having a piñata at every event has become a unique family tradition for the Munce family, piñatas originated many years ago by the Aztecs. They celebrated the god Huitzilopochtli’s birthday by bringing a clay pot to his temple. The pot was heavily decorated with colorful adornments and inside it was filled with little treasures. To break the pot it was hit with a stock and the treasures that spilled out where a tribute to the god. Many cultures strike the piñata with their eyes covered with a blindfold. This is meant to be a representation of one’s willpower and “blind faith” in overcoming the temptations that are thrown at one. (Menzies).

The piñata embodies so much more then just hitting an object and making items fall from it. It encompasses the ideas of the unexpected and the unknown. Blindfolding forces one to undertake a degree of trust in the people that are surrounding him or her. A person is unaware of what the people are doing around him/her as he cannot see but still participates in the event and take a chance at hitting an object uncertain of its position. Additionally one has been spun around many times in order to make one dizzy and this makes hitting the piñata even more difficult than it initially was.

This concept frequently takes place in life itself. Often the situation or circumstance is unclear and one has to use faith that whatever the experience or outcome holds there were will be some positive element that will emanate from it.


For more information on this see (particularly the entire chapter on the Aztecs):

Menzies, Gavin. 1421 the Year China Discovered the World. London: Bantam P, 2007.