Acolman is a small town in the State of Mexico, about 27 miles east of Mexico City. It is most known for being the birthplace of the Mexican piñata, a truly iconic staple of the nation’s culture.
Here’s more on that story, the winter piñata fair and everything you need to know about this curious corner in central Mexico.
Piñatas: a way to evangelize?
Piñatas weren’t precisely invented in Mexico, since there are recounts of similar artifacts in ancient China. By the time that Christian evangelization began in the New World, piñatas were fairly known in Spain.
This explains the fact that missionaries used piñatas as an evangelization tool. By imagining a conceptual use for it, they gave the Mexican piñata its distinctive shape. Each one of the seven spikes in the star represents a deadly sin. The missionaries told the indigenous people in Acolman that sin could only be defeated by a strong will –represented by the pole with which the piñata is hit– and blind faith –represented by the bind in the hitter’s eyes.
Of course, there had to be a payoff. Once the participants had hit the piñata enough, the clay pot at its core would break and reveal the fruit and sugar cane hidden in it. The method seems to have worked, since piñatas became a huge thing all over Mexico, they even transitioned into the secular as one of the children’s birthday party essentials.
The Acolman experience
The best time to visit Acolman is in December, during the Feria de la Piñata, which brings together piñata makers from all over the area, who spend months making gigantic piñatas just to take them to the fair and be a part of the piñata contest, where the most outstanding design wins the higher prize.
Peek into the piñata workshops to catch a glance of the process and the stunning finished piñatas that are for sale. Ask around for a full tour, which will take you behind the scenes of a workshop and show you everything about the piñata making journey.
Just walk through the streets of the town and you will find Christmas everywhere. Whether in the piñatas of all colors and sizes that are for sale or in the posadas that are going on all the time just outside of the houses. At the main square, there are special performances of carol singers and traditional dances.
As you leave the town, you will see a statue of Fray Diego de Soria breaking a piñata. He was the priest responsible for using Christmas as a main way of evangelizing the natives of Acolman. His legacy is still very much alive in this charming and beautiful town in the outskirts of Mexico City.
By the way, the Teotihuacan pyramids are really close to Acolman, just a 10 minutes’ drive! If you’ll be exploring this area, check out City Express La Raza as a place to stay. We’re located inside the city but close to the highway that leads to all of these places.