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Victoria Grimm: Piñatas

By Elizabeth Higgs

VictoriaGrimmEtAl.jpgVictoria Grimm makes Mexican piñatas in a small workshop in her home in DeLand. Adjacent to her house is a garage in which she stores her many creations, which range in shape from a large orange carrot to a Power Ranger. Grimm has used piñata making to teach her children, grandchildren and thousands of Florida school children about her heritage. Born in 1935 in Mexico City in a neighborhood full of craftsmen and street vendors, about ten blocks from the national palace, she helped her parents make goods to sell for all kinds of seasonal celebrations: firecrackers for Mexican Independence Day, candles for All Saints' Day and piñatas for the Christmas season. "We always watched people working all the way around us. We were always making something to sell. We always worked with our hands." When Grimm was seven years old, her mother showed her how to make piñatas for Christmas festivities.

At present Grimm makes two types of piñatas: one with a clay pot inside it and the other constructed entirely of papier-mâché. For the first type, she sometimes uses a balloon instead of a clay pot to provide a shape. Her mother taught her a special technique for creasing and shaping tissue paper "leaves" to cover piñatas. Grimm also recycles junk mail postcards to make the points of her small star-shaped piñatas, which she covers with silver or gold wrapping paper. To finish small rose-shaped piñatas, she ties cotton twine around the lips of the clay pots so that they can be hung. To suspend papier-mâché piñatas, she fabricates a strong paper lip and glues twine to it. For large piñatas, she uses rope to support the several pounds of small candies.

Piñatas are associated with Mexican Christmas celebrations called posadas. During the nine days preceding Christmas, children carry small statues of Mary and Joseph on their shoulders in neighborhood processions to commemorate the couple's journey into Bethlehem. Each night at the door of a chosen home, the group sings lines in which they ask for a posada-a place to rest for the night. The family inside welcomes everyone in with much celebration, noise and firecrackers. A party follows, which culminates around midnight with the breaking of piñatas to scatter candy for everyone present.

Grimm remembers how her family began their own posada celebrations. One Christmas the children begged their mother for her gallon-size clay bean pot to make a piñata. Victoria said that she was tired of cleaning the pot: "You couldn't make that pot blush any more." They hung this new piñata over the beams in their adobe hut and broke it by swinging at it with a broom handle. All the brothers and sisters dived to gather the most candy. This became a cherished part of their family Christmas celebrations together.