I remember well our first Piñata experience here in Mexico, back in 2010….and now, three years later, I can not count how many times I have sung the “Dale, Dale, Dale” (yes, there is a specific Mexican Piñata song) nor how many dulces (candies) have made their way home. The kids have definitely come to identify the Piñata as a symbol of a Mexican birthday party, or perhaps other festivies as well, and even enjoy the “con chile” candies that often dominate the candy bag. And yet despite all these good memories, I have come to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Piñata. Let me explain…
Piñatas come in all shapes and sizes, and typically here in Chiapas they are still made with a clay pot in the middle. You can find all kinds of piñatas, there are the traditional colorful, star-shaped piñatas, or you can find characters from the latests children´s movie. But one thing is for sure: Mexicans love their piñatas, and Mexican children (and adults) know best how to hit, dive-for and collect its falling candy. Does this not sound so fun and idyllic? Well yes it can be, and has been…but then again lets think about how this party tradition actually works itself out.
First of all a Piñata is all about taking a stick and trying to beat to a pulp some adorned object. Then at the moment the candy starts falling (at times with the stick still swinging), there is the dive and scramble to get as much for yourself as one can possibly gather. It is not important if this requires jumping on another child or leaving the less aggressive child crying because they were left with just 2 items, while the other child is gloating about his/her full bag. Okay maybe I`m exaggerating a bit, but not too much.
It has been interesting to see how my children, and myself, have adapted to this cultural experience. First of all, yes the children always ask for a Birthday piñata, although Ezra played a funny joke on his friends last May when he filled his piñata with bags of veggies (the expression on the kids’ faces were priceless!). Hilary, now almost at age 5, has learned to get her fair share of candy, but often Ezra enters with low expectations (at least at larger gatherings), looking only to pickup a few things. I typically try to prepare myself mentally so as to not get too angry at the seemingly unfairness of it all, and admittedly at times try to grab candies to divide them up more fairly.
But you know what, there is more to this all than simply being critical of a tradition that I feel tends to teach children to look out for only themselves. For on a much more global scale is this not what we all do? Sure, I may think how good I am to encourage my children to share their candies with those around, but how much am I encouraging myself, my communities, my government to work towards a more economic equality. I know this is a very complicated issue, but, those Piñata experiences sure do make one think.