Piñata Ethics (Updated)

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pinata-ninosSo I got myself in a bit of trouble yesterday. My wife, who is very not-Venezuelan read Emiliana’s story about the Semana Santa operativos with evident alarm.

But worse was to come when she got to the provocative exchange in the comments section about our pre-eminent childhood ritual between Island Canuck and Bill Bass

When I first came to Venezuela more than 25 years ago and attended the first children’s birthday party, I was utterly shocked by the piñata ritual. Children pushing and shoving to grab candy, not to mention the wildly swinging stick to break it. The mother who pushed her 12 year old daughter to grab more candy from the 6 and 7 year olds. The frenzy!

Well these children are now mid 30s and still have the same mentalidad.

To which Bill Bass, in typical sociological fashion responds:

Yours is a very acute observation. Piñatas are part of our Culture. They involve a frenzied moment of chaos where children battle to grab the most cheap freebies they can, where a bit of violence and chicanery is not only allowed but encouraged, where an spectacle is made of that chaos.

In this sense one might see the Piñata as a metaphor for what Chávez instituted as a form of governance, throwing his followers big Piñatas , where things can be had for free, in a maelstrom of frenzied chaos which encourages people to indulge in a bit of violence and chicanery in a spirit of fun and games.

At that point my wife looked up at me, put on her Most Solemn Voice, and declared: “It is decided. We will never allow our children to participate in this barbarous ritual!”

I just blanched. “But…but…” I stammered, but I could see it would do no good. Something about this ritual just cuts against some very deeply held values. Pretty soon, she was on full-on rant mode.

“What’s fun about this? You’re celebrating violence, ego-centrism, screwing over the people around you just because you can. You’re taking the whole point of a birthday – giving and sharing – and inverting it, turning it into a grotesque celebration of mindless greed, of disinterest in people around you, of just grabbing for the sake of grabbing. Those are the values you want to pass on to our kids?! Really?!

Something deep inside me rebelled at this point. 

It just felt really wrong to me. As a kid, piñatas were just so much fun. A childhood without them seems weirdly empty to me, impoverished. And yet as I tried to think rationally about it, I realized I had no argument at all to give her about why, yes, we should encourage our children to shove smaller, weaker children out of the way in pursuit of cheap swag.

Part of me thinks Bill Bass has it all wrong. As a child I never experienced piñatas as a template for social interaction, I experienced them as a break from the normal rules of society. That’s what made them fun and exciting and cool. All kinds of societies have festivals where the normal rules of social behaviour are momentarily suspended for a clearly limited period. The Romans had Saturnalia, when masters would serve their slaves dinner at the table. Sociologists have always seen such role reversals as means of reaffirming the normal bonds of society, not breaking them.

But maybe this pseudo “public interest” defense misses the whole point. Perhaps Vargas Llosa had it right when he wrote,

La razón, el orden, la virtud, aseguran el progreso del conglomerado humano pero rara vez bastan para hacer la felicidad de los individuos, en quienes los instintos reprimidos en nombre del bien social están siempre al acecho, esperando la oportunidad de manifestarse para exigir de la vida aquella intensidad y aquellos excesos que, en última instancia, conducen a, la destrucción y a la muerte.

Granted, he was writing about sex rather than piñatas, but still…

Deep down, I know I’m holding a losing hand.  I remember Cabrujas’s piece on the Caracazo, his description of the joyous faces, the spirit of fun people showed as they plundered the stores, like it was all one big open door piñata. I know that, from childhood, those people had learned that this way of behaving was “normal”.

If I’m honest, I know I’m defending the indefensible out of sheer childhood nostalgia, a reactionary stance that doesn’t stand up to a bit of scrutiny. I’d become like the old curmodgeon flailing to articulate this deep feeling that gay marriage is wrong because…because…well because it just is! I mean, you can’t just go around redefining marriage just like that…can you!?

And you can’t go around redefining childhood willy nilly like that…can you?!!

Update: My wife reads the comments and weighs in again:

To be honest, after reading all the comments, I am more persuaded to accept Piñatas as something occasional and fun for kids. Obviously, in and of itself, the piñata is not that bad.

I know that there are many violent traditional rituals in the world (Japan is no exception), and even if they are quite violent (in Japan we have some rituals where people die year after year), they can be meaningful and important to the society. It’s a part of the culture. It’s not healthy for a society to be fully castrated, cut off from these kinds of expressions. In sports, in bullfights, the limits between normal life and the ritual are very clearly in place. What bothers me is that those limits seem a lot more fuzzy in a piñata…

Let’s be serious: is a Piñata really an exceptional thing, a special occasion where rules are different from and opposed to the rules of every day life? Like CACR said, it seems more like a reflection of daily practice. If it’s former then, yes, Piñata is accepted. But if it’s the latter, then no. I don’t want my children immersed in a society where this kind of behavior is normal!

My real problem is that, reading the Emiliana’s post, Piñatas seem to me more a part of venezuelan daily practice than an exception from it.

If a Piñata is harmless fun, when and where do Venezuelans acquire the capacity to be so aggressive, mindless and greedy in pursuit of free stuff? If piñatas are part of a system where children are encouraged to share some of their game with smaller and weaker ones, why don’t adults at the beach kindly help one another to share the gobernación’s loot?

It’s all about context. Venezuela, as people who read this blog know only too well, has a big problem with people acting in anti-social, greedy, violent, rule-breaking ways as they try to get stuff in every sphere of life. In that context, it’s hard to see a piñata as something completely innocent.

1 COMMENT

  1. Piñatas is one thing I really dislike of my childhood in Venezuela. There were always one or two kids that ended up crying with no candy and a couple of bullies hogging all the goods. Only once did my mom organize one of these barbaric events for me and I truly hated it. It is disgusting! Francisco, I agree 100% with your wife.

  2. Me as well as my three grown up adult children have had piñatas and we all turned out to be very nice adults. Both points of view on piñatas are right and wrong at the same time, it’s difficult to make a statement on how piñatas will affect our outcome

    • Thanks for your note, Lucy. But I have to say I find this line of argument – “I went to piñatas, and I turned out fine” – particularly weak. Obviously if every single child who went to a piñata turned into a sociopath they would’ve been banned long ago. That’s not what this is about.

      This is about normalizing a certain form of behavior, making a given aggressive, me-first, others-be-damned attitude seem normal in the eyes of children. I went to a lot of piñatas, and I turned out (I think) fine, but in going through that ritual I learned – not consciously, but learned nonetheless – that that mode of behavior is normal and acceptable. And it’s that normalization of chicanery that then spreads throughout society in deeply insidious ways.

      • You can take one step further and criticise the effects of something dear to your heart: Competition. Go to the rainforest and meet some tribes. They all understand what competition is, but were never brought up to see it as the driving force in society.

        It isn’t just pinatas. Competition for grades, in sports, having the best toys. We raise our children to compete against their friends and wider society from an early age. A lot of academics argue very little of this is healthy or positive.

      • “Obviously if every single child who went to a piñata turned into a sociopath they would’ve been banned long ago…” LOL

        Pinatas are seen as a place where kids get to “break the rules” imposed on them by adults and society. Whether pinata becomes a way of life, or just an event where kids can be wild and free for a few minutes, comes down to how parents educate their kids at home. Similar to what happens with violent movies and videogames.

  3. Piñatas promote the idea of survival of the fittest. The strongest and most skillful child gets the most amount of candy. This is a really weak standard, but it is almost representative of the societal expectation that we expect of ourselves. The person who fulfills themselves with the most amount of objects (whether meaningless or not) are the “happiest” and/or “most successful.”

    In one sense, I agree with your wife because piñatas can represent greed and accumulation. But in the other sense, can’t you say that this attitude goes along with the capitalist notion that self-interest can lead to ambition and getting what you want in a world where everyone is trying to get the same thing?

    • If you want to train children about capitalism using Pinata’s, it would make more sense to have them build them and be rewarded with candy. Quickly gathering valuable things just laying on the ground is a poor analogy for any sort of normal work.

  4. When I was a kid I only saw Pinata’s at a few parties. Only once or twice was it a free for all, which I hated and only took part in once. The other times the candy was either evenly divided or all went to the birthday child, who could then gave some away as he or she saw fit. Either way each child got a chance at hitting the Pinata while blindfolded, which of course is the real fun.

    Moral of the story, you can still have a Pinata without the violent free for all that happens in Venezuela.

  5. You want a real piñata party? Wait till the chavernment loses the election.

    When the Sandinistas lost the 1990 election in Nicaragua, what followed became known as
    “the piñata”: wholesale looting of moveable property in government offices. Cars, computers, electronics, furniture – it all vanished by truckloads.

    The same thing will happen in Venezuela, but on a much bigger scale. It will also include the nation’s entire cash reserve, and whatever properties can be “sold” to private buyers in a hurry. Then all the records will be destroyed, to prevent discovery of the thefts.

  6. If piñatas are so harmful then I wonder what competitive sports teach children. Granted that competitive sports require training, aptitude, rules and a certain degree of ethics. But, it displays the same type of competitiveness, slyness and wit that can be associated with taking candy from a piñata, where even the losers get a consolation prize.
    Everybody gets a turn at a whack, teaching us to wait in line but letting the weakest and youngest go first. It also teaches us to share. I remember having to give some of my candy to an unfortunate victim of a fallen perinola. Something I never had to do with my Halloween candy.
    It also teaches us to celebrate chaos, keep calm, and that good things that fall from the sky hit you hard on their way down.
    In today’s world, there are seldom sweeter lessons than a piñata. Tell your wife to buy one shaped like Chavez and see if she will refuse a whack at it.

  7. On the very pragmatic issue of raising multicultural children, I can only offer a page from my my own mother’s book “Raising Gringocuchos.” Realizing the glee that came from whacking a papier mâché Woody Woodpecker could not be replaced, her solution was to stuff the the piñata with equitable baggies of of goodies, so each child could get their fair share. (And a bit of loose candy, whistles and balloons — because a whiff of chaos was always fun.)
    For all other matters piñata-wise, I defer to the brilliant Schlenker post.

  8. i hated pinatas as a kid, agree with your wife. By the way just because its traditional doesn’t mean we need to justify it, las fiestas patronales were half the town ends up drunk on the floor in the Plaza Bolivar. It was also traditional for men to have 10-12 children outside of marriage (this included the parish priest)….so many traditions…..

  9. Of all piñata parties I went to when I was little, I remember few of them being involved in some child violence but —guess what— parents intervened and stopped it. Before the piñata hitting began, the host mother distributed same-sized plastic bags among all the children. My father would always tell me “Suerte mi cielo”, “Dale duro!” and “Rápido, zúmbate!”. Friends, siblings and cousins would sometimes exchange and/or give away among one another piñata items each one didn’t like.

    And now I’m reading the very game that taught me to be fast is a root cause of our problems. I’d love to know what Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Mexicans and the rest of Latin America would have to say about this. The next thing I’m going to find is an article explaining why trick-or-treating has been promoting terrorism and begging in Anglo-Saxon adults.

    Piñata parties are not inherently violent. Parent permissiveness changes the spirit of the game.

  10. I remember loving at least in concept piñatas. Note first that there are many variants of the piñata destruction event. In one amusing version you are turned and turned while blindfolded until dizzy and stick in hand get a few tries swinging after the piñata, guessing its location of course, as the spectators try not to get hit.

    There are many aspects about the piñata and an emphasis has been placed on the frenzied final lunge for the “swag”. But there are some nice aspects: the piñata itself, very cool even beautiful, sometimes made at home, the mystery of the candy in its bowels, what will come out? The competitive aspect swinging the stick, the comedic aspect when you miss and fall on your ass or not manage to break the piñata because you’re punny, the satisfaction of actually striking the darned thing, the suspense waiting for it to break, the frustration as only a few initial items fall out, the joy at the deluge as the guts are spilled, the post-mortem analysis of fragments scattered about and loot acquired.

    Like a lot of stuff in life it has good and bad qualities, some aspects of a piñata reflect other realities in life, some you simply shouldn’t read so much into. After all, you could argue about the sexual connotations of the event.

    I think the more important negative aspect, more important than the greedy candy lunge, is the principle of destroying something beautiful. There is something profoundly chavista about this. But for a kid (like a chavista) vandalism can be enormously fun.

    In any case it was not something I did frequently, and wish I got a chance even now as grown up to witness more. I am all for piñatas, and for the pc out there, kids should not be forced to participate if they don’t want simple enough.

    If you want to target something primitive, try corridas de toros. Now that is roman circus.

    • On an aside I was actually not so sure about the state of toreo in venezuela having never actually as much as gone to a corrida or coleo so looked it up quickly and came across this old piece of news:
      http://ipsnoticias.net/nota.asp?idnews=40770
      This utterly changes things, I have to say that I am now fervently in favor of toreo and by extension all other pugilistic or violent traditions, including the very inhumane piñata.
      (tongue in cheek)

  11. I played soldiers when I was a kid and it did not make a warrior out of me; I organized piñatas for my kids and that did not turn them into bullies! In fact, my wife always kept some candies to compensate the smaller or unlucky kids. I have never experienced spontaneous child violence except for some rare parent-induced selfish behaviours: as for everything the Piñata party is what adults make of it!

  12. Hey Toro, I had no idea you married a passport *Badum Tsssst*
    But anyway, when I first read this, I thought that maybe your wife (And I’m sure shes a lovely person and all) was overreacting a bit.

    I pictured her just finished reading one of those New Age books that transmit the idea that everything related to raising your kids should be all smiles and rainbows, never exposing them to even the least difficult of situations because that’ll ruin their “happiness aura” or some crap like that, then she read the Piñata comments and Will Smith’ed out with a loud AWWWW HEEEEEEL NO!

    My initial answer to that would be, you know, Piñatas aren’t really all that bad, I went to a few back in my day and I turned out “fine”, at least I don’t go out onto the streets looking for clowns to whack with a stick (All of the Piñatas I ever partook in beating were clowns, for some reason). Its just a fun little thing kids do, they gather around in a circle chanting, take turns violently assaulting an inanimate object and then throw themselves into a frenzied trance fighting for its sweet entrails.

    I know, I know, I’m making Piñatas seem like a satanic ritual, its just a joke, but then again, if you go through all of the steps that constitute a classic Piñata party, there really isn’t anything good that, no pun intended, comes out of it, no good lesson for your kids to learn, except if you think that screwing over others is a good lesson to learn, so, what do you do? At the end of the day one can look at Piñatas and say “They aren’t really that bad, as long as we keep the order, there will be no violence” And that’s true!

    I guess the point of this incoherent mess is that I honestly don’t know what to tell your wife, this is the first time in many years that I think about how Piñatas work, so maybe I’m already an old square (At the age of 24) Who thinks Piñatas are a celebration of “Lo vivos que somos los criollos y por extensión, los latinoamericanos” So we should burry that tradition, but hey, its a tradition nonetheless, how can we burry it?! Son Piñatas nada mas chamo! Then again, I don’t think the values they promote are all that good, so, I’m torn. I don’t really have an answer to this as much as I just want to discuss it.

  13. I am going to agree with Vargas Llosa here and say the reason we must keep piñatas is the same reason we need to form a fight club: our instincts and our basic desires might look horrible and unethical, but pretending they aren’t there isn’t going to make them go away.
    But in the most practical manner, the issue with how to deal with it in your own family is simple: if everyone is doing it, do it. If not, avoid it. You dont want to have your child ask you “Why does everyone gets to beat a donkey that spits candy but me?” or “Why I am the only one who has to kill a sacrifice of paper and carboard to the Venezuelan gods of greed and bloodlust?”
    Piñatas give a sense of identity in our own culture, but the point is lost in others. So while in Rome, practice Saturnalia, and while in Venezuela, embrace the chaos.
    Its the only way to live.

  14. Lol, I never liked piñatas.

    I always felt I had to get more candy just to beat the assholes mowing down smaller kids.

  15. Well this is rich. So now I will forever be at fault for the Toro progeny being deprived of our primitive birthday ritual? I suppose its just a matter of time before my posts are being held responsible for children living pointless childhoods devoid of pirulines binges and Sabado Sensacional as well? NOT what I signed up for!

    • As someone who was deprived of Sabado Sensacional during childhood, I can say things went just fine for me.

      • For your wife quico…You have to be creative… My daughter’s piñatas were sooooo democratic they were boring. I prepared las bolsitas de chuches y regalitos, stuck them inside the piñatas that almost rhyme with piranhas, and tied them with ribbons. The little civilized girls and boys sat around in a circle and at the count of one two three pulled their ribbons and their own bolsita fell in their lap. No pushing, shoving or violence. Everyone got the same share. My kids accuse me of being almost “a mommie dearest” for not subjecting them to the violence 😉 and the thrill… Call it a democratic piñata pues!
        Anyway all of the Latam population would be Tio Conejos if the piñatas corrupted us from the start.

    • What you posted about the cayo copey chrinicles is a walk in disney world with fireworks and mickey mouse, compared to the “fun” the had yesterday at los “juanes”, animal planet se quedó pendejo :p

  16. I enjoyed them!! Pignatas were parties, cakes, games and friends! And the pignata….
    I do agree there is something “socialy dangerous”, but what about the parents teaching “pajarobravismo” and “notedejes” all the time. Isn’t it worst than the pignatas? The “coleate mi amor” and other similar orders aren’t part of the venezuelan daily life?. And as pointed by others what about Trick or Treat, isn’t it “getting something free” and “menacing” to the giver?

  17. Having helped create this problem for Francisco I guess I must comment , Pinatas can be a bit wild , specially the shoving and scrambling after the scattered trinkets , but they can also be heaps of fun for most kids , They dont necessarily transform all kids into violent fiends , but if the kid is a a fiend already the Pinata gives him a chance to bully smaller kids and get more trinkets for himself. Lots depends on the grown ups keeping order and not letting the big kids abuse the smaller kids.

    Maybe what is most important is the spirit with which the kids play the Pinata game , In Venezuela in particular, a male kid is encouraged to be ‘arrechito’ and ‘avispado’ , to be feisty and aggresive and cunning as a means of displaying his burgoining manly qualities . Kids must play at being tough little ‘machitos’ to be held in admiration by peers and parents, this means acting the part of not being just tender little kids but little machitos and for many that means being a bully . When Pinatas are played by little wannabe machitos or bullies, and there is little grown up supervision then they can turn ugly.

    So although the Pinata can in itself be a ramboctious albeit innocent game , where the culture encourages little kids to be bullies and wily the game can become less innocent . The problem is not with the game but with the culture pressuring little kids to become little macho bullies .

    I suspect that Pinatas played mostly by little japanese kids, or maybe even Costa Rican kids are always innocent and that if played in Venezuela with adquate adult supervision they can also be innocent .

    I remember as a kid being surprised on moving to Colombia or the US how local kids were so decent and nice ( with an ocassional bully) and could be comfortable just being kids and how different they were from my much more aggresive native schoolmates in Venezuela .

    I hope this helps Franciscos conscientious wife be reconciled to Pinata games under the right kind of conditions.

    • Please don’t worry about our marriage. We discuss and fight over many things, but it’s in a sprit of sociological inquiry. We often go for this kind of political and cultural discussion, because we like it (I studied cultural anthropology).

      Thank you for opening up this interesting debate.

      • Hi Kanako i understand your misgivings as I didn’t particularly liked them as a kid, i was shy and more than once got trampled under the heap of older kids and their nannies but as I posted before… My three daughters’s piñatas were sooooo democratic and politically correct they were a snoozefest. I prepared las bolsitas de chuches y regalitos, stuck them inside the piñatas that almost rhyme with piranhas, and tied them with ribbons. These ribbons hung down in different colors for the different genders. The little civilized girls and boys sat around in a circle and at the count of one two three pulled their own bolsita in their lap. No pushing, shoving or violence. Everyone got the same share. My kids accuse me of being basically “a mommie dearest” for not subjecting them to the excitement (violence) 😉 and for having the most boring piñatas on earth.

    • I agree with you. In Venezuela there were at least 5-6 bullies per classroom and I went to a private school with a good reputation (and to make matters worse teachers encourage bullying by playing it down and disregarding it). I don’t even want to imagine how a public school is like nowadays.

      In the USA kids are much nicer; students are much more cohesive and feel proud to belong to their schools. Students believe that together as a group you can achieve great results and would stand up for each other on certain occasions when teachers are being unfair.

      A mirror on today’s societies? I believe it has nothing to do with pinatas and everything to do with poor parenting.

    • I’m one of those that didn’t like Piñatas much. I would enjoy beating the piñata but wouldn’t care for the scuffle later. I didn’t go to many parties with piñatas though. Trying to think back to why I didn’t like piñatas I just realized it was because of the pressure my mom would put on me to get as much candy as possible. It seamed really important to her for some reason. It just wasn’t in my nature to be that aggressive and competitive so I was doing it just out of pressure and that made it an unenjoyable experience for me no matter how many candies I got.

      Having said that I do think piñatas are ok and they are not a big deal. I mean what is better for a kid than a rain of candy?

  18. Piñatas are quite the opposite of competition in sports or other fields. In piñatas, your gain comes at the expense of the other person’s loss, and you are encouraged to take from the other person without any rules. In sports and other fields, that’s not the case. Competition in sports and in the market rewards those who are there first, who do things better, who work hard, as long as the playing field is level and everyone follows the rules. In piñatas, only the strong survive, and there are no rules.

    • The free market is like big kids (with big sticks and big hands) vs. lots of smaller kids, some of whom have no stick and one hand tied behind their back.

      • You really are going with this idiotized analogy, aren’t you?!? You really aren’t seeing the way this line of argument displays your dramatic ignorance, are you?

        Listen, the whole point of capitalism is that ANY player can be successful only by doing things that generate value to those around them. Which is why tiny companies that produce goods and services people want routinely get big, and big companies that stop doing so fail. Picture a piñata where every kid’s candy-take is directly proportional to how much fun they create for other partygoers and you’d be much closer to the mark.

        Thirty seconds wasted, I know, but jeez…

        • Capitalism requires that the vast majority of people never become rich, otherwise the bells and whistles of the system simply wouldn’t be maintained, cleaned, operated, manufactured or sold.

          This is 101 stuff, Quico.

          • Capitalism requires that the vast majority of people never become rich..

            Which is why Chavismo is so great. God-given Hair and his like could never have gotten rich under capitalism by producing value- such as nouveau riches like Steve Jobs or Donald Dell. Under Chavismo they can get rich by stealing value. 🙂

          • Stop.

            Stop beating down Chávez.

            Answer the actual points made.

            And remember that you are looking at Chavistas that are looking at the talanquera with recelo… don’t screw it up for us.

          • Answer the actual points made.
            I thought I made an appropriate response to a doofus description of capitalism. It is a bad thing to beat down mega-verde thievery done in the name of Chavismo? Ciao.

        • “Listen, the whole point of capitalism is that ANY player can be successful only by doing things that generate value to those around them.”

          Haha!! This sounds like a parody of a parody of capitalism’s defenders.

          So far, in just this thread alone Toro would have us believe that piñatas are the source of Venezuelan social malaise, and capitalism generates happiness for all.

          Talk about thirty seconds wasted… Try a decade wasted writing this blog. Oh well, its not your fault. It must just be “El Laberinto de los Tres Minotauros” bouncing around in your head that doesn’t allow you to think clearly…right Toro?

        • Francisco, Yoyo is being intentionally a bit of a tool, but he also makes a correct point. Capitalism is never pure. In ideal capitalism, all you say is true. In real capitalism, just as in real socialism, greed and wiliness are more rewarded than hard work and cleverness. So this game teaches life skills, and also teaches that it’s something that should only come out in a crisis. I think Yoyo’s right that many sports teach the same thing — do people really hate the footballer who commits clever fouls and doesn’t get caught? Or do they appreciate that he helps the team win? I don’t think piñatas are all that exceptional, in short.

          • Sapito : yours is a great point , there are no perfect systems , only in the dreams of silly people , there are systems that work within some limits and under certain conditions and systems that dont work at all (you know which I mean respectively) . I think as you do that it has to do with something basic in human nature . Some system are more suited to human nature , others depend on the creation of ‘new men’ that never get made . I wonder why China and Vietnam have abandoned State operated economies to adopt market ones which such great success, why the whole Soviet system went crumbling down when they exercised absolute control over its population , why even Cuba is now apparently opening the door to a more open private economy : Only in Venezuela is the dream still flickering supported by a rent of 90 billion dollars of oil wealth which the capitalist world pays in tribute to its adoration of gas fueled trasnportation !!

      • I am really weeping now. Thank goodness there are Robin Hoods around us to save the day, or shall we call them ‘socialists’. You can’t be serious for crying out loud

  19. I went to my ahijado’s birthday party last year in oriente and they had a pinata. It brought back beautiful memories of my childhood.

    However I did think my country was doomed when I saw these same young kids (under 10) dancing reggaeton in very inappropriate ways and lost the remaining hope I had left when I saw the parents reaction which encouraged the kids to dance like they were having an disgraceful orgy.

    • I have not seen it in person (gladly) but I do share your horror, after seeing a viral video of a Piñata that was circulating some years ago titled “quémala Jacson”… I rest my case

  20. This is falling close to “excessive parenting”, where the belief is that the pick-and-choose of every activity the child is engaged in will affect their personality. There is always something negative to be found if we dissect everything. We can’t hope to “purrell” the lives that our children are exposed to, thinking it will traumatize them otherwise.

    It’s not about the argument of “look at me, I turned out fine.” Look, bullies at a pinata are going to be bullies somewhere else. Regular kids are not going to be turned into assholes just because they got to push some smaller kids to get candy. It could mostly come from “down-to-earth” parenting and your daily lives with your kids, where is not about preventing exposure to activities deemed inappropriate, but from teaching them how to deal with the fallout from those activities. And there will be plenty of fallout, no matter what you do.

    But then again, who the hell knows? We can’t say one side or the other is wrong. We just go along doing what we think is our best as parents.

  21. We used to organize “social democratic piñata events” at my kids’ birthday parties. The kid who breaks the piÑata is always the smallest one. Then, after all the insane scrambling, the kids with the least stuff get their portions topped up with extra candies from a hidden stash.

    • Interesting concept this of piñata ethics… have to think of it, but it seem pretty appropriate for certain behaviour the regime have tended to promote.
      On the other hand, the piñata during a child’s birthday party is something that could affect kids behaviour depending on the rest of their lives, the culture they are exposed to, the parents and education they got, social groups they live in and so many things.

    • That’s almost like giving free houses, healthcare, appliances, pensions, etc to the poor after the IV republic! The hidden stash is Fonden. Hey, I’ll send you a red shirt in the post.

  22. I had to laugh because of the memory that piñata story evoked.
    Up here (I’m a Canadian married to a Venezuelan) they became a popular novelty in the 80’s, (I think by some Mexican movie).
    Suddenly you could buy them at the dollar stores, along with all the other cheap Chinese swag and candy to fill them.
    First time I saw one a friend (who likely saw the movie) had bought one for her rug-rat’s party, hung it from a tree out back and the fun began! But no matter how many kids whacked that donkey-shaped paper mache brick, it wouldn’t crack open. So they dispensed with the blindfolds.
    That donkey withstood the best these five-year-olds could throw at it…so a dad stepped in, helping the biggest kid like he was teaching him to swing at a fast ball. The first swing broke donkey and the stick and sent a spray of swag and debris shrapnel at the already bored and cranky row of kids, just hard enough to get them all crying.
    So you had all the parents scrambling on the ground trying to grab loot and stuff it in their kids’ bag to stop the crying. Classic pre-Youtube moment.

    It’s an interesting causality theory, but I’m of the Vargas Llosa mindset that a little “Amok Time” is necessary to deal with the restrictions society places upon us for the common good.

    Hallowe’en is probably the closest parallel I can think of up here, where one (young and old) can don another personna for the night, wear masks, and stay out late at night threatening a dirty “trick” if you don’t cough up a “treat”. (Though the older do so at parties and bars rather than door-to -door)

    But it didn’t turn us into a society of home invaders!

    Muzito

    • “So you had all the parents scrambling on the ground trying to grab loot and stuff it in their kids’ bag to stop the crying. Classic pre-Youtube moment.” Hahahaha

  23. “Other” answers to the poll –

    VARAGS lLOSA WAS RIGHT: AN ORGASMIC VENT FOR CHILDREN’S PENT UP ANGER 1
    you`re killing me kiko. I`m holding a pair of twos too. 1
    you are reading too much into it 1
    get a life 1
    It depends on how you organize it, like judo, aikido, karate or battojutsu 1
    But you need to take care of that stick very much dont hit some kids 1

  24. This post made me think of the Halloween ritual in which small children dress anonymously in masks and extort their neighbors into giving them candy by threatening vandalism against their home if they do not comply with their demands. On any other night the home owners would be justified in calling the police in the face of such juvenile delinquency, but on All Hallow’s Eve, it is not only condoned, but encouraged. How barbaric is that?

    In actual practice, of course, the tradition has been toned down, controlled and sanitized, but its roots are in a temporary suspension on the normal rules of society.

    I confess that the few times I have participated in the piñata ritual, the chaotic scramble to grab goodies seemed to me unseemly. I hung back and didn’t really get anything because I was reluctant to push and shove and grab. Still, I can see that it was intended to be good fun, and for the Latinos, it was. I tend to agree with the view point of Vargas Llosa that we should not ignore our inner barbarian. We should take him out once in while and examine him in a safe setting. We should do so because we should know exactly what he is capable of and so that we should not take civilization for granted.

    Francisco, you can tell your wife that a piñata ritual is not going to un-do all the years of good parenting. There are other temporary suspensions of the normal rules that apply to adults. Our children should be prepared for those as well.

  25. I never liked piñatas as a kid, because I didn’t see the point of beating a papier-mâché Mickey Mouse clone with a palo de escoba, and then fight some other snotty brats over some cheap candies (besides, I’m a “pacifist”). I’m 24 now, and still don’t like ’em, and most likely that I never will.

    The reason? They remind me of how society, or rather, the wealth distribution works in Venezuela: we have a morbidly obese petropiñata, that releases billions of green candies. Then, we have a patota of big, fatass bullies, who’re the ones smashing and stomping on other to get the biggest cut of the share, and finally we have the rest, a bunch of skinny runts trying to get hold of whatever candy wrap is left. This also brings up how venezuelan society is structured, like a huevo frito: a yolk of wealth, surrounded by a white belf of misery.

    • except now the fatass bullies call themselves “revolutionaries” and try to convince everyone else that what is going on is actually good for them.

  26. While we’re at it, why do we have a party and give people gifts for turning a year older. What kind of message is that sending? That getting older is good?

  27. C’mon folks, let us be reasonable: it does not take a genius to figure out that piñatas are a symbol of everything that is wrong with our society. And nevermind that nobody has mentioned the scariest part: the fact that the piñata usually represents the birthday’s boy or girl dearest fiction character; the boy’s hero, the girl’s embodiment of cuteness and loveliness… say, Buzz Lightyear or Hello Kitty… and then you proceed to whack the sh*t off of it. Of the “thing” YOU LOVE, Total madness.
    But the proof is in the pudding: if piñatas don’t make you crazy. why are we apparently sane persons, discussing piñatas in freaking English, for Heaven`s sake?

    • Well, in one of my friend’s 18th birthday, his piñata was that of a “bad girl”, if you follow. Now, given your argument, should I think he loves fictitious whores, or that he’s pro-violence against women? Not, really. But, hell yeah, piñatas are total madness! And so is our piñata society.

    • Heheh, it is a bit odd to be discussing this in english and forcing those with english-language keyboards to fish around for the Eñes, hehehe…

  28. I think we are all making to much a of big deal out of this. Yes, one may look at pinatas as a bad thing, some won’t. I personally believe Pinatas can be great instruments for teaching valuable things. I know it taught me a lot about sharing, about helping out less fortunate, about patience, about great parents, about catharsis, about strength and weakness. Parents are the ones in charge of this and it’s their responsibility the event goes well.

  29. If piñatas are barbaric then Halloween is begging for food, in Halloween you have to take your kid to every house to beg for candy, it teach that you dont need to work to get free candy you only have to beg, but no one thinks that Halloween is responsible for the welfare state and the national debt of EEUU.

    Piñatas are just piñatas is a game thats all.

    • The way Halloween is supposed to work is you have to do something entertaining to get your candy, like sing a song. It’s the people who are giving out the candy who are the lazy ones, for not following this.

  30. I think we might be overstressing about the whole piñata issue. I look up some videos in youtube o pinata celebrations of non Hispanics and they seem to behave very similar to us:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFMC23VNdt0
    Maybe the difference is that they see the ritual as an outlet, an exception to when rules apply and we, on the contrary, just see it as an extension of our everyday anarchy, but my overall point is that most children, regardless of their nationality, would react the same before a ritual such as piñata because there is something a bit anarchic and fun about it. Pensándolo bien, los venezolanos no necesitamos piñata porque todo nuestro día es una piñata.

  31. There are two extremes: those who encourage chaos and those who are extremely fearful of anything that might corrupt them. I’m somewhere in between, and doubtlessly the problem with your wife is that she comes from that other extreme: that society that’s extremely fearful of anything that might corrupt you (and yet terms like bukakke and other “atrocities” like the kancho were invented in Japan), and she may not be able to see the slight but very important difference between enjoying a piñata and being selfish and aggressive. Most Venezuelans can’t see that difference either, and that’s why we are in so much trouble as a country and culture. As long as you instill respect for others and some limits to the fun based on ethics, I can’t see why you can’t enjoy a piñata.

    I took some pics of a piñata just yesterday, and I managed to take a bag of junk food that just flew in my way. I didn’t need to be agressive to do that. I also consider it a fair trade since I’ll be giving the pics to the community 😛

  32. I never liked pinatas. I was afraid since I was the skinny, petite little girl. I remember not even trying to get into the crowd. Fortunately for me, my parents never encouraged me to go in and my sister, stronger and more courageous would get in heads first and share her reward with me.

    Now I’ve also seen a change in the procedure that may change your view of the pinatas: parents sit their children in a circle, they let them hit the pinata in order, then they get them closer in, still sitting down on the floor, and one adult breaks the piñata, waving it in a cycle so every kid will have his/hers share over their spot.

  33. Since I was initially the person that started all this I would like to give a better explanation.

    I’m Canadian & when I saw my first piñata event I was completely shocked by the greed of it all.
    If it makes any difference this was a “pueblo” birthday party not a middle or upper class one.
    When I saw the mother pushing her 12 year old to grab more than she already had my stomach turned. Her eyes were bright & frenetic. It was quite an introduction to Venezuela culture & even though it happened 25 years ago it still remains fresh in my memory. A life altering moment.

    The point I was making was in reference to the original story of the adults acting in similar ways.
    Maybe it’s because we Canadians are generally not as emotionally wired the same way as Venezuelans (I’m married to one).

    In any event I would have handled it differently &, in fact, in ensuing years we managed to have a controlled distribution of the goodies while still retaining the traditional piñata.

    • Island canuck, I don’t understand why would you be so horrified at a piñata. Hockey is much more violent than that, especially the screaming mothers on the stands. My husband plays hockey (gentlemen’s hockey, not contact) and he always comes home with a bruise!

  34. I’m going to make an observation that the last Piñata paryt I went to was in Mexico for girl’s birthday party. It was a Cinderella piñata and of course they don’t use a stick, they use their fists. Picture a set of happy boys and girls hitting and deforming a cardboard Cinderella. I made a quiet snarky remark to my wife on how the boys were being “trained” to hit women from early childhood, I was being facetious but considering the violence angle being brought up here it makes you wonder.

  35. It is very difficult to think about a counter factual for the “piñata case”. The more I think about it, the only thing that jumps into my head is that even in the absence of this “Folkloric” rituals, advanced societies are also facing huge problems with their young adult population (bullying, guns in schools, etc.)

  36. Count me in on the “never liked it myself” ledger. But just because I did’t like I wouldn’t go as far as declaring them the source of all our vivo-evil. Ni calvo ni con dos pelucas! If it were an everyday thing then sure, but as a once in a while activity they should fit into the “reverted rules” category. As long as they do represent a reversion/temporal suspension of rules…which sadly isn’t the case for many kids and their parents. That’s the issue.

    Francisco, I’d tell your wife that if your kids can’t do pinhatas, then they can’t join festivals like the 灘のけんか祭り either. More or less the same rules apply: it’s ok to have all able bodied males in town beat the living crap out of each other with portable shrines and sticks BECAUSE it happens once a year in a controlled setting.

    Which reminds me…I’m surprised no one has mentioned another barbaric birthday ritual: LA SALA. If I remember correctly the happy (gulp) birthday boy had to run in terror while friends/classmates sang the ominous “yo te dare…te dare una cosa…” to then proceed to…beat the living crap out of said birthday boy.

    I still shudder just thinking about it.

    • Dios mio!!! I did not remember La Sala until now!
      Good I was a girl.
      Anyway as for piñatas I was like many others here. I enjoyed having one, I like beating it, but never went for the candy, too scared to be hit and pushed and everythign else.
      Now that my son is 1 year old I think he will have maybe one or two very surpervised piñatas

  37. We are not a alone, you can see epic fights during black friday sales even in sumo gyms 🙂 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOIESXz4OHs

    At most of the piñatas I attended, the only one receiving a blow was a poor kid who got too close to the piñata and was hit by a blindfolded, stick-carrying fellow partygoer. Usually a parent would break the piñata by hand and all hell would let loose, but the whole thing was over quicker than a bloody finger in a piñata infested river.

  38. To be honest, after reading all the comments, I am more persuaded to accept Piñatas as something occasional and fun for kids. Obviously, in and of itself, the piñata is not that bad.

    I know that there are many violent traditional rituals in the world (Japan is no exception), and even if they are quite violent (in Japan we have some rituals where people die year after year), they can be meaningful and important to the society. It’s a part of the culture. It’s not healthy for a society to be fully castrated, cut off from these kinds of expressions. In sports, in bullfights, the limits between normal life and the ritual are very clearly in place. What bothers me is that those limits seem a lot more fuzzy in a piñata…

    Let’s be serious: is a Piñata really an exceptional thing, a special occasion where rules are different from and opposed to the rules of every day life? Like CACR said, it seems more like a reflection of daily practice. If it’s former then, yes, Piñata is accepted. But if it’s the latter, then no. I don’t want my children immersed in a society where this kind of behavior is normal!

    My real problem is that, reading the Emiliana’s post, Piñatas seem to me more a part of venezuelan daily practice than an exception from it.

    If a Piñata is harmless fun, when and where do Venezuelans acquire the capacity to be so aggressive, mindless and greedy in pursuit of free stuff? If piñatas are part of a system where children are encouraged to share some of their game with smaller and weaker ones, why don’t adults at the beach kindly help one another to share the gobernación’s loot?

    It’s all about context. Venezuela, as people who read this blog know only too well, has a big problem with people acting in anti-social, greedy, violent, rule-breaking ways as they try to get stuff in EVERY sphere of life. In that context, it’s hard to see a piñata as something completely innocent.

  39. I loved hitting the Piñatas, but I did not like when other kids became barbarians, desperate to get all the toys they could get, even stealing what other kids had already grabbed; this gladly did not happen at every Piñata I went (again, it depended on whether those kids’ parents kept order or were raising them to be well behaved; La Sala and a violent Piñata almost always came hand in hand, fostered by said parents because they thought t was “fun” -my Dad would always say: “eso es amor malentendido, dejar hacer lo que les da la gana a los muchachos”-; to most parties I went giving la Sala was forbidden). Being a girl and very skinny, I could not fight the bullies, but I found out that if I kneeled and sat on my feet, I could hide all the toys I could grab under my skirt, when the bullies would look at me I would give a sad look holding my almost empty bag (cheeky, I know). When it was over, and the bullies left, I would then proceed to quickly fill my bag. However, many times, the toys inside the piñatas were too few, or the kids became such bullies that attempting to jump and try to grab toys felt like a matter of life and death. So, my dear parents (God bless them) kept a huge stash of all kinds of cool piñata toys in the trunk of their car, specially for me and my brother, and for any other kid that was left crying after the piñata debacle. So, my brother and I would walk up to the crying child (whether we were friends or not), tap them in the shoulder, and signal them to come with us to our parents’ car, my Dad would open the trunk and reveal the treasures! My parents would then proceed to fill his/her/their bag, and they returned happily smiling to the party. And, this did not turn into either a sociopath, a drug dealer or child abductor! 🙂

    • I do have to add, that my parents NEVER organized a Piñata for me or my brother, we went on road trips, mostly to the beach 🙂

      • Penelope , why dont you explain what La Sala is to non Venezuelans in this blog ?? My own memory of it was that it involved a group of boys spontaneously bunching arround an isolated kid while singing the words to the song “yo te dare , te dare nina hermoza…” and then beating the kid up at the end of the song. Great fun for everybody except the beat up boy.

        • “La Sala” as I remember it was receiving a happy birthday beating from an mob formed by your own friends and pretty much anyone else who was within earshot of the chant that preceded the beating. It went something like this:

          “Yo te daré
          te daré una cosa
          te daré niña hermosa
          una cosa que empieza con P…
          …PALIZA!”

          Granted, a big part of it was show with little real kick to it, but I did receive my share of bruises and even a broken lip once from more enthusiastic participants.

          Anyone knows where this “tradition” comes from? Googling after this is posted, so spare me the LMGTFYs!

          • Then there is the psychopathic subvariant: la salita con burrera, it is the same but with kicks in the butt, we used to do it at my school while playing a game called “túnel”

        • La Sala is extremely barbaric, I have no idea where that custom originated from. You kind of already explained it, BIll. La Sala is ONLY for boys: the birthday boy is surrounded by his “friends” and whoever else wants to “congratulate” him, and they all start singing
          yo te daré,
          te daré una cosa,
          una cosa niña preciosa,
          una cosa que empieza por P…
          ¡PALIZA!”
          that would roughly translate as:
          I will give you
          I will give you a thing
          a thing beautiful girl
          a thing that starts with B…
          a BEATING!
          (as you can see, in reality, they are beating up a girl… even worse!) and as they scream PALIZA proceed to punch the boy as much as they can, and ends when the birthday boy manages to escape… I only witnessed this once, at my cousins’ 10th birthday party, and still cringe when I remember his terrified face because the boys beat him so hard, he cried so much. To which his “friends” would say: “ay esta llorando como una niña”.
          Now, I have to add, growing up as girl in Venezuela kind of sucks…

          • No luck on my brief google search. Only hint is a song by a band called “Los Zuecos” released in 1997, with the chorus ending in “…una cosa que empieza con C…CAFÉ!”

            Sure there is some double entendre in there. Wonder how that survived as a birthday beating song, of all things!

            Trusting the inquisitive minds of CC for an anwser!

          • I Googled it as well, and the oldest reference I found comes from Peronismo, dating back to 1945:
            “Yo te daré, te daré patria hermosa, te daré una cosa, una cosa que empieza con P, ¡Perón!”.
            The real matter is, not where the song comes from, but why we turned it into lynching the cumpleañero…

          • Penelope : I also knew it only as a boys custom , but the victim could be any kid any time , not just on birthdays and sometimes the beatings were severe ; i remember a little kid who was beat in the neighborhood and was left pis..ing blood . Dont know what brought it up , The custom was unkown in colombia or the US when I lived there as a child.

          • Bill, that type of birthday beating occurs in other countries, for instance Ecuador, although not accompanied by the lovely song (that I know of) and usually it’s a flogging with belts, not a pileup. But the result is the same. In Colombia they have a different custom, namely getting the birthday kid dirty with food or mud…

          • In the USA (in the military or college frats) they have “hazing,” equally nasty rites of passage…

          • That’s horrific to say the least! Now that you mention it, it happened at the recreo, but almost always when it was the “victim’s” birthday as far as I can remember… for the no-cumpleaños in my school boys did a “rueda-de-pescao” (which is same sh*t, different horse). I am asking some friends on FB who work at NGOs to prevent and reduce school violence, maybe they know…

          • Not totally OT but this conversation is bringing back memories of other less-than-civilised games we used to play back in my old Maristas school in Maracaibo:

            -Tunel (version one): Boys form too rows facing each other, creating a human tunnel. Random poor sap has to go through without losing direct eye contact with anyone forming the tunnel or else they get smacked on the head. If someone smacks the victim while being looked at (always a challenging thing to prove/disprove) that person becomes the new victim. Repeat.

            -Tunel (version two): Step on a can of Malta Polar/Regional to make it flat. Kick it around trying to make it go in between the legs of anyone else. Whenever that’s achieved all participants make a cayapa and beat the poor sap to their heart’s content. Repeat.

            I’m surprised I made it out of there alive!

  40. Man, don’t you think this is over analysing the pinata? If you leave kids to be kids, you are always going to find the bully, the weak and the street smart.
    When I was a kid the people throwing the parties always had a few extra bags to give to those kids that were not able to jump into it. Some people had two pinatas, one for the very young and another one for the bigger kids.

    I live in Canada and I see kids behaving the same way without a pinata when taken to these indoor parks that host the party for you.
    They are mischievous little monsters that “throw a rock, and hide the hand”.

    And let’s not talk about the behaviour of some parents during their kids’ hockey games. That is really scary.

    • Nepo the thing is that in Venezuela kids worst Pinata behaviour can be observed in many adults as Emilianas beach narrative attested to, which, points to a deeper cultural trait of the Venezuelan psyche , a love of chaos , violence , unlawfulness, chicanery , a taste for taking things from others , that one can observe in many adult situations. The cult of the Picaro , the scorn for the so called ‘pendejo’ , the haughty ( a mi nadie me manda) attitude of defiance before authority . etc etc and which some of us believe makes Chavismo style of governance something popular in Venezuela , specially among the less educated.

      • What I feel is really creepy is having the child choose their hero(ine) of the moment just to bash it to pieces by their best friends in order to get to the candies etc… But we have survived it as much as the rest of the latam countries. Anglos survive halloween and their bullying is worst…so.

      • Truthful I must be and say I have not read the piece from Emiliana. So I will comment on your comment.
        Attributing this so called ‘cultural trail’ to the less educated is simply wrong.
        This aspect of the venezuelan behaviour is clearly visible in all the people without making distinctions about education, wealth or race.

        Not all people is like that, of course, we cannot generalize.
        But it truly is an aspect present in a majority of the population.

        However, I think that looking at those traits in the pinata is all wrong.
        Kids will be kids and I guess we can agree that some might be what we call cruel by nature.
        But the worst behaviour in kids during a pinata in Venezuela, is obviously a display of what they have learned from the adults in their life.

        • You are right in that many of these traits are common to all Venezuelans , but poverty does not make people better , often rather the opposite , it can maim people , bring out the primitive in them , specially in Venezuela where the social fabric of life among the poor is so weak , after a process of deterioration which has gone on for 20 odd years . Children who are brought fatherless or lacking in parental care or love from parents who pair a few years and then go on to form new transient relations to breed new children only to be abandoned again, seldom come out as model citizens . Children need stability , security , affection , a thorough instruction in discipline and self control (which is sadly lacking in many poverty stricken enviroments) to become productive healthy persons . Buñuel once said that both too much poverty and wealth made people bad person except that the latter at least had some chance at defending themselves from such threat!! (“Los Olvidados”)

    • As a kid in Canada, we had birthday spankings, including having the birthday kid have to go down a gauntlet of all the other kids in the class — in school. This was in the same schools where we had to say the Lord’s Prayer every day. Por eso estamos como estamos! Or something. Those damn Canadians!!!!!

  41. My brother in law told me in Iraq they had to stop throwing candy to the local Iraqi kids in one of the towns he was patrolling near because a few of the bigger ones were beating the hell out of the little ones, sometimes with stick and rocks, in order to get the most candy.

  42. In light of your updated post and numerous comments it does seem like the piñata ritual can be regarded as a microcosm of Venezuelan life. My (banal, apologize) two cents would be that every ritual is carried out in a larger cultural context. The piñata represent a cultural relic developed within a historical context (derived from the mix of cultures that evolved and merged in Venezuela and latam) which includes other violent rituals such as toreo etc. That context is the source of the problem, not significantly the piñata ritual, which seems somewhat too innocent in my view, although apparently the detailed form of the ritual does depend on who carries it out, and as an educational experience can perpetuate antisocial stereotypes.

  43. What bothered me the most about piñatas is why you have to whack the hell out of you favorite-most-cherished character? Why? I mean, beating to death your most loved idolized character must have consequences of any sort…

    • You are doing it wrong … never choose your hero for the Piñata
      You either choose a Bad Guy or even better an inanimate object.
      Example: Peter Pan themed party you would choose Captain Hook or the Pirate Ship as the Piñata.
      That’s how it is supposed to work.

      • Believe me, as a Venezuelan, between 4 and 10 I beat the crap out of very nice characters including gasparín, mickey, fresita, the ocassional osito cariñoso and even los pitufos….

  44. It’s important to consider that piñatas were invented in a more innocent time, when candy was rather a luxury and the sheer fantasy and exuberance of a shower of sugar, with all the associated paraphernalia was the point of the show.

    As a kid who never got to eat candy — or that unexpectedly delicious combo of frosted cake, jello, and quesillo — except on birthdays, I used to LOVE piñatas. In my experience, there was typically enough stuff to go around. And if ever a younger kid felt deprived, parents and kids alike would divvy up the loot of someone more experienced. It was a chance to learn about sharing.

    Perhaps my friends were more civilized than most? In any case, I don’t think there’s anything inherently ugly about the ritual.

    • That was my experience also.
      However, kids now are quite different (and this is not a generational statement).
      On y last trip to Venezuela I heard insults from 7 and 8 years old kids that truly surprised me.

  45. I always thought that the Spanish Caribbean Islands and Venezuela were culturally similar. But having lived a number of years in Caracas and other Caribbean cities, I get the feeling Venezuelans trust each other less, and perhaps the crime statistics back them up in this. My two cents, like Venezuela, the Spanish Caribbean Islands have piñatas. They also have an African (Tío Conejo) type and an Andino (Juan Bobo/Bimba) type, but they lack the Llanos (Pájaro Bravo) type. As an islander, I cannot understand the chavista pueblo admiration for Boves (in private) and Zamora (in public) and think Rómulo Gallegos was on to something here that has nothing to do with piñatas.

  46. You’ve struck a nerve here …

    You should know I have seen the Piñatas go both ways:

    If the party is smallish and in a more family / close friends setting you most likely will see a result where kids take turns, and after the initial rush help their smaller friends to share the toys and candy, tipically a good time is had by all.

    If the party is Big as you only see them in Venezuela were kids and parents dont know each other very well, then it is more likely to see deviant behaviour by the older kids and funny even the nannies of younger kids. I recall once getting a right hook from an over enthusiastic lady in uniform.

    Another key piece of rules Piñatas are fun between 2 years and 7 years top. Kids older than 7 get a single swing and don’t get a bag to keep candy until all the younger kids have theirs full.

    If done well a Piñata can be lots of fun for the Kids and the worst possible thing that can happen is them getting a bit of a sugar high or upset stomach if you fail to control the candy.

    Oh and make sure you take video, those memories last for ever.

  47. ¡Increible! 10 años blogueando la revolución para terminar concluyendo que ¡¡¡¡la culpa es de las piñatas!!!

  48. I have gone to a few piñatas lately, and they are being done quite different now. The kids sit in a circle, and once everyboday has had their turn beating the crap of the piñata, they all sit still and the parent breaks the piñata over the kids heads, going the full circle. So kids don’t run wildly, the just sit and have heaps of cheap plastic toys and cheap candy fall into their laps. So, let’s see how we the kids turn out in a few years, a social piñata experiment.

  49. I am a Venezuelan-born Canadian and enjoyed every piñata I went when I was a child. For a moment, your wife ruined my concept of the piñata, the same way I decided not to show anything about Pirates to my son because, why would we glorify terrorists? and pirates were the terrorists of the sea, or weren’t they? However, Venezuelans are not the only ones that beat piñatas, most LatinAmerican countries do and now even here in North America it is becoming a “must” to have a piñata on your kids’ party. In fact, last time we had one, I was the one encouraging the kids to “hit it hard” and to have fun!!! I actually think it is a kind of “controlled violence” where you can let your children vent all the violence that somehow we have inside and need to get out. Same as in hockey. Canadians go and fight for a puck for 60 minutes and when they are off the ice, they all drink beer together! “what happens in the ice, stays in the ice!” according to my husband. So why wouldn’t just update the saying “what happens on the piñata, stays on the loot bag!!”

  50. I believe Piñatas are not as terrible as you are depicting them. At the beginning kids take turns to hit the piñata, and small kids get to go first. I never witnessed a piñata where a kid was pushed out of the way, or cried because he was left without any candy. You will always find bullies in any society, but it is their educators who are at fault, not a harmless tradition that kids tend to love. I think this is another case of over-thinking things. Sometimes thing can just be fun, otherwise you end up becoming the United States, where you are liable for anything you say, everything has to be PC, and you basically are not allowed to have a sense of humor. We need to lighten-up! There is soooo much that is wrong about Venezuela’s society at the moment, I think it is over-simplistic to want to blame everything on the Piñata.

  51. Actually, the handbags and purses are not only the accessories for women but
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