A New Generation of Pinata Making

Arts and CultureNew Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Scarlett Alaniz Diaz carefully cuts the tissue paper as her mother Rosario Hedman wraps the fringed tissue paper around around an undecorated piñata that was made in the shape of Hello Kitty.

Rosario is visiting her daughter to show her some technique after several years of being known as the 'Piñata Lady' in the New Orleans area.

But Rosario lives in Mexico now, but the Honduran woman is passing her art of piñata making to her daughter, who is showcasing it at the Louisiana Folklife Village during Jazz Fest.

"My mom said 'Scarlett, why don't you go and take over?' I said, 'You know you're right. I love making them. I do them for my grandkids, so it's kind of like i'm takin her tradition now, so I can do it from now on'," Alaniz Diaz said.

The piñata making started many years ago in the family when they lived in Honduras. Rosario made them for family members. Scarlett would help. And then in 1998 Hurricane Mitch struck, the family business was destroyed, and Rosario's husband died. The daughter encouraged her mother to moved to Louisiana. That's when a hobby became a very popular business that caught the attention of Jazz Fest.

"Her business grew so fast, she was able to be know around and then she got invited to Jazz Festival for 12 years and everyone was looking for her every year. They used to call her 'Piñata Lady," Alaniz Diaz said.

So on the patio on a warm spring day the women are busy twisting wire to make the head of an Elmo piñata. It even involves shaping his open mouth three-dimensional.

Once they finish the shaping the body of a piñata, then it's on to the papier mache. There are stacks and stacks of news paper that will be dipped in a starchy substance to harden around each piñata character. Scarlett says they do six layers so it will be like cardboard. They continually dip their fingers in a huge bowl of the white sticky mixture and wipe it over the newspaper as they make the piñata.

"This is a special glue made out of starch, lemon, and salt. You cook that and let it cool down," Alaniz Diaz explains.

She also describes it as feeling cold and slimy.

And while one piñata is drying in the sun, they don't waste any time. They start decorating another. They make any characters from Sponge Bob Square Pants, to Spiderman; whatever a child or grownup wants.

"It's fun. After you finish making them, you feel proud because you bring a smile to a kid," Alaniz Diaz said.

She knows. Piñatas have been part of her family for years. She has plenty of pictures too.

She wants to spread that happiness to other families.

 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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