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"Love At First Sight:" The Journey Of A Piñata Maker Across Borders

Omar Soto is a piñata maker. He came to the United States as a child, and his first encounter with a piñata marked him forever. "It was love at first sight", he says.

By Omar Soto

I grew up in a small town called Las Nieves, Durango, in Mexico. My first memory of a piñata is that of a huge birthday party that my parents threw, and the piñata was always the center of attention. It was love at first sight at a very young age.

When my parents brought me to America at the age of 6, I remember the piñatas here in the markets were too plain for my taste, compared to the ones I had seen before, so I began to experiment with cardboard and other materials on my own, and began making my own piñatas from scratch, even as a small child. My family  would send me papel picado from Mexico, and I loved it because that would make me feel closer to my origins, and I felt a connection to the place where I grew up.

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I began volunteering to make the piñatas for our family parties, and they were always a hit; I felt it was because they were a work of love. For me, piñatas are an outlet for my creativity. Like with a sculpture, I play with their three dimensions and different textures. They are handmade crafts. 

I consider myself an artist, and I have found in piñatas my favorite medium of expression. I like to make things, create things, and express myself. There is something unique about making things with your own hands.

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As for the shapes, I love pop imagery, and pop culture figures and characters. My favorite thing about making a new piñata is the creative process, how everything begins when I conceive an idea and it gets a life of its own. I love every carefully-planned step, and how the things that inspire me take form. It is my way of celebrating the form of the thing, and also my way of understanding -and interacting- with the world.

The hardest piece I had to do was also the strangest request I've had. It was back in April 2012, and it was a life size T-Rex for my nephew. It seemed so complex at the time. How was I going to bring it to life? I remember how excited he was that his tio was going to make him his first piñata. So, I got to work, and it was many hours, and a lot of decision-making and attention to detail. I think it's one of my best works yet, because of the final result, and how good it looked. It was very unique, and it was so big it didn't fit through the door.

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We tied it to the back of the truck, and many people honked at us and asked us about it at red lights because they thought we had purchased it somewhere. That fact, that so many people have approached me to compliment my work has been a huge motivation and one of the reasons that I haven't given up on this.

Some of my best piñatas are on display right here, in Las Vegas, in local bars and restaurants. I love the fact that my work is displayed in these spaces. God has been good to me every step of the way. I will never forget that first piñata I had back in Durango when I was a small child.

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Follow Omar on Instagram 

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