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Celebrate The Fourth Of July Latin Style With A Piñata

Imagine you are a Latino child (this is probably easier if you were at one time a Latino child). You are at a birthday party, eating cake, drinking punch and so forth. That’s all cool and all, but that’s not really what you’re there for. You’re not there to celebrate your friend’s birthday, either. Screw that crap. Your purpose in at the party is clear. You’re there for the piñata.

You think about all the wonderful surprises that could be inside the piñata’s cardboard innards. You ask yourself, “did the parents spring for the Mars or Hershey fun-sized pack or is it filled with crappy candy from the dollar store?” The anticipation is killing you and won’t be relieved until you, with wooden stick covered in paper-mache at hand, beat the living crap out of Batman, Barbie, Elmo, or a burro.

The piñata has ancient origins. The Maya and Aztecs performed a proto-piñata ritual in their temples. As a tribute, they would fill brightly decorated clay jars with beads, nuts, fruits, and colorful trinkets in front of the statue of whatever unpronounceable god they were worshiping. Then they would smash the clay pot and the contents would rain down, symbolizing the god’s bounty. When the Spaniards showed up, they decided to ruin the party (as they are prone to do). They took the piñata and turned it into a way of teaching the indigenous people about how they were evil. They made the piñatas into the shape of the devil or a seven-pointed star representing the seven deadly sins. If you destroyed the sin, you got treats. Weird but effective. Later, the piñata became part of the Christmas posadas celebration. This evolved down the ages into the modern piñata, which is usually made of cardboard and paper mache in the form of a colorful character. You can fill the piñata with candies, toys, or party favors. On time in college, this author filled a Batman piñata with condoms, flavored love gels, and plastic mini-bottles of booze. In the video below, David Letterman breaks a piñata filled with guacamole.

The practice of breaking piñatas spread from Mexico to the rest of Latin America, as well as the southern and western parts of the U.S. In many parts of Latin America the awesome practice of beating the piñata with a bat while blindfolded, was replaced with the lame trapdoor. In this type of piñata, there is a trapdoor in the bottom and the kids pull a string to let the stuff out. This author was subjected to this lameness in Miami until his family moved to Texas and the piñata bashing years began. Where’s the fun in pulling a string? If there isn’t a possibilty of bodily injury, what the heck is the point? Which brings us to piñata safety. It is important to follow some safety rules when busting a piñata: 1. Always point the dude with the bat away from people or breakable things. 2. Move the hell out of the way from the disoriented person with the bat. 3. Hang the piñata from a secure anchor point. In the video below, you can see what goes wrong if you don’t use your head. Mainly, dads get a bat to the huevos.

Nowadays, the piñata has spread to our non-Latino neighbors in the U.S. There is even a game for the Xbox called Viva Piñata, in which you can create and play as different types of piñatas on a magical island. Today, piñatas come in lots of different shapes and colors. The most popular designs are based on cartoon and comic book characters.Usually, you match the piñata to the theme of the party. If you are having an Elmo theme you get an Elmo piñata. And honestly, who doesn’t want to beat the holy hell out of Elmo?

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