Traditional Toys of Mexico
by Alicia Villaseñor
Eyes sparkling, endless dreams parade forth, saturating the air. The
Top spins like a big sweet candy, with the notion of being devoured.
Its shrieking colors reminiscent of the sun. The Watermelon laughs at
the crying Paper Doll, sulking because she can't play. The paper
mache Clown announces, "it's because she's only a toy..." The Dreams
calm the noisy commotion, they can't stand watching the tears. Out
come the little clay Frying Pans offering chocolate. The Top, growing
tired, begs for mercy, head spinning....
This is the nature of uncooperative, happy, stubborn, relieving
anguish, educating, and above all, inviting a dream. They are the
result of the Mexican identity. They are magic, representing the
astros of good and evil, an encounter with the gods and the spirit
With their vulnerable personalities, the toys of Mexico were
born from religion and customs of an ancient past. Precincts Aztec
families, affectionate and disciplined, gave their young children
toys to play with. Here began the assignment of domestic duties, and
more. The boys
received miniature arrowheads so they could begin learning to hunt.
For the girls there were small weaving spindles and grinding stones.
A broom made for tiny hands was used not only for sweeping, but also
to whisk away evil spirits...
Many traditional Mexican toys are a marriage between well-worn
colonial toys and regional native materials: clay, wood, gourds,
sheets of tin, palm leaves, thread, or paper.
The clay toys have a spiritual objective. They are destined to adorn
the altars of the gods, surrendering themselves to indigenous worship.
These little clay objects are made potters from Ocuumicho,
Michhoacan; Tlaquepaque and Tonala, Jalisco; Metepec in the state of
Mexico; San Bartolo and Coyotepec, Oaxaca.
In the town of Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacan miniature kitchen
utensils are elaborated in copper and wood. From the trees come
gourds, whose shells are fashioned into animals. The ducks, fish are
then painted with fanciful decorations. Gourds are also used to make
rattles, or maracas as they are known. From the Zapotilla tree,
chicle is extracted. The gum is formed into little pots and pans,
tiny hats, miniature fish and any other toy the artisans from
Guanajuato, Puebla, Michoac6n and Jalisco feel inspired to
Traditional toys are still being made in all parts of Mexico, each
state has its own personal touch.
Families continue passing the arts from generation to generation.
Browsing through Mexican markets is a delight. Dreams are sheltered
in this place that chaperones, sells, and conceals toys.
...A noise drifts up from the Rattle Snake, suddenly growing louder.
I walk towards it, closer, its colors so intense
The Yellow and Green
are inviting me to the party! The Rattle Snake begins singing,
exuberant to be dressed in wood, metal or tin. I cant resist and
begin moving my hand. The noise surges, it is music, and I cant
They say this singing Rattle is from the
indigenous villages, cut from the snakes tail for the children to
entertain themselves with.
The Paper Dolls are fighting amongst themselves. Using a
giant slingshot, they hurl a stone right into the face of a poor
Marionette Bear! With a bellowing cry he yells: Just you wait!Now
you cant play with my yo-yo!..The Tops are dancing, gyrating across
the floor, the wood gears of the Matracas clack out a traca,traca
inviting us to the soccer game Lets make some noise, root for your
team!They are a sea of colors. Beep!Beep!!The little wood Car calls
out to me as the Toys climb aboard: taking them away, taking away the
sea of color.
Traditional Mexican toys were often used to to teach religious customs or
pass on cultural beliefs.
Paper mache dolls are still sold in open-air markets and at festivals.