December 2013

Piñata

     My father made piñatas. That was his most cherished pastime, shaping the papier-mâché with great skill into giant animals, luchadores with bright masks, and popular cartoon characters to be demolished by blindfolded, stick-wielding kids who cheered when candy guts were spilled and only battered carcasses remained.
     At the age of seven, I asked to be taught this impressive art form. My father was delighted to share his knowledge. The process was challenging but seductive. Mistakes were made, and I laughed at each one, eventually producing a lopsided star filled with the sweetest gum and lollipops and chocolates, beautiful the way flawed creations sometimes are. Unlike my peers, I took no pleasure in destruction and insisted my piñata be preserved.
     It was my trophy.
     Within days, the piñata vanished from my bedroom. I never learned who robbed me. Was it my hermanito, looking for a game to relieve his boredom? Was it that mean boy from next door, desperate to satisfy a decaying sweet tooth?
     The entire neighborhood heard my angry screams and witnessed seemingly never-ending tears cover my cheeks and drench my shirt.
     A rope hung derelict from the tree in our front yard. My star had been forced to collapse on itself, leaving the blackest of black holes.
     Things just weren’t fair; the piñata had no chance against a hungry attacker. It was an innocent victim, a fate I found quite tragic.
     I formed a plan.
     Kneeling on the grass, I vowed that someday I’d teach my son the art, and he’d teach his son, and so on and so on, generation after generation, until my plan, born in that moment of pain, became reality.
     I knew, eventually, it would happen.
     I knew, eventually, we’d give a piñata the ability to fight back. Perhaps with lasers.

—René Martínez

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