Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/2020
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English, Italian
The following is a transcribed interview conducted over a video chat between me and interviewee, hereby further referred to as LT.
Me: So what were some birthday rituals you used to have growing up?
LT: Well, I’m sure most people now are familiar with the classic pinata that a lot of mexican households have at their kids’ birthdays. I guess, since you’re asking about traditions, I remember my dad telling me that the tradition about pinatas is all about how the pinata represents, supposedly, the seven deadly sins – like temptation. So you having the stick and being blindfolded is supposed to represent like blind faith in god and your struggle not to give into those sins. And, I never did this, but my dad told me that they used to twirl people around to confuse them because that’s how you make it an extra struggle! And I remember my grandma used to even twirl people 30 times because that’s how many years Jesus Christ lived. Also, pinatas were never animals – they used to just be, according to my dad, just like spiky balls with lots of vibrant colors. I guess vibrant colors are supposed to represent sin and temptation.
Me: Ok, so what about the candy?
LT: Oh, and the candy, well he said and I guess it makes sense, that the candy is supposed to represent the reward from god and from faith that you get when you fight and defeat those temptations.
Me: So, you used to always have a pinata at birthdays growing up?
LT: Oh, yes always.
Interviewee immigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles as a teenager, however, she still returns home near Mexico City frequently. Her entire family is from and lives in Mexico, apart from her younger siblings and stepmother. She works as a translator in both Spanish and Italian. She is my older sister, so we’re very comfortable around each other.
This interview was conducted over a video chat between interviewee and I. Being that we are family, it was a very casual conversation just talking about some things we both did growing up, but her specifically in central Mexico.
Pinatas are seemingly well known at this point as a Latinx tradition, but it is interesting the variation by region and country. In her area of Mexico, the pinata is tied to religion and they teach kids very young that they must battle and conquer sins. While this is a very heavy message, they do it as a reminder of the emerging hardships of growing older each year that also seemingly give fruitful rewards, like candy. I, too, always had pinatas at birthday parties but ours were always characters and I never got to meet my grandma to learn her lessons about it.