Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Piñatas políticas in Colorado and in Latin American Tradition

In Mexico, political piñatas are a "thing." To celebrate holidays, families and friends gather to take turns swinging a stick (palo) to hit the swinging paper maché piñata until it breaks open to disperse evil (el mal) and to scatter candy (dulces) for children to gather and enjoy.

Piñatas to express political dissent are a form of popular satire, such as those made to represent the former Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gotori and current president Enrique Peña Nieto.  The PRD (one of three major political parties in Mexico) even hosts a competition for young people to encourage the artistic creation of artisanal piñatas as political engagement and expression.

This week, a Colorado teacher has been placed on administrative leave because students in Spanish class broke a piñata with the figure of Donald Trump.  The superintendent of Johnstown Milliken Schools Dr. Martin Foster, evidently unaware of the custom of youthful satire through political piñatas, called the incident "incredibly disrespectful."

At first glance and from a purely USAmerican perspective, perhaps the custom of breaking a piñata representing a politician's image seems odd.  Here instead of piñatas and effigies, we express political humor more commonly through satiric caricatures and Halloween costumes.  MayDay rallies in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Minneapolis included artistic satire in the form of puppets and floats criticizing billionaires, especially Donald Trump.

In US Latino communities, piñatas in the form of political figures are common and innocent fun.  We poke fun through satire that is culturally appropriate and, in a Spanish class, las Posadas or Reyes or Cinco de Mayo are celebratory moments in which it is common to express political humor in a light-hearted, playful, way.  The constitutional right of freedom of speech allows us to gather as communities to laugh and cry together about the politicians who represent us in government.

Would you take a moment to share your experiences with political piñatas as a healthy form of political satire?  Do you have a photo of your own political piñata that you might be willing to share in the comments?

Scroll down to contact Dr. Martin Foster by email to share your cultural experiences with political piñatas.  Your cultural knowledge may be useful to the school district as they consider how to proceed with the Spanish teacher who has been placed on administrative leave.