Sunday, January 15, 2017
The Birthplace of the Piñata
Most people are familiar with piñatas, the brightly decorated vessels that are broken as a part of Christmas and birthday celebrations. The origins of the piñata go back to Italy and Spain, perhaps even China. It was in the 16th century that the piñata made its appearance in Mexico where it was to become forever a part of that country's culture.
On Saturday, Alejandro and I traveled 25 miles to the north of Mexico City to the town of Acolman. According to tradition it was here that the piñata was first introduced in Mexico. The town is dominated by the monastery of San Agustín de Acolman. Built between 1539 and 1580, it was one of the earliest monasteries in Mexico, and a center for the conversion of the native population to Christianity.
It was here in 1586 that the Augustinian monks first used the piñata as a religious teaching tool. The Mexican piñatas originally had seven cone-shaped points which represented the seven deadly sins. The breaking of the piñata represented the man's struggle against evil. The blindfold worn by the person attempting to break it represented faith. The treats which fall from it when broken symbolized the rewards of faith and virtue.
Because the indigenous people were not used to worshiping indoors, and because the unbaptized were not allowed within the church, the monks preached from an open chapel.
From this balcony, sermons were given to the large crowds of natives that gathered in the atrium below.
The church of the monastery is noted for its mural paintings.
The adjoining monastery is now a museum. It too was decorated with paintings, most of them in black and white.