The tradition of piñata, hollow papier mâché containers filled with treats such as candy to celebrate birthdays and other events, was brought from Spain to Mexico in the 16th century. However, there was already a similar tradition in Mesoamerica that used clay pots.
Guatemala City – Been There

Spiderman, meet the Smurfs

Photo by Ton Koene

Guatemala City – Been There Spiderman, meet the Smurfs

Guatemala City has the quiet air of a village grown over-large. The narrow streets, paved in concrete with high, red-painted curbs, struggle to cope with the mass of traffic.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

The sidewalks are narrow and shops spill out onto them, with black-clad armed guards a presence in many. Sun-faded paint covers walls that are broken up with iron-barred windows and bursts of political graffiti. The market is crammed with a mass of colors: the bright indigenous fabrics the country is famous for, and shiny fresh fruit and vegetables. Men meet and part with a gentle open palm slap and fist bump. Stoic faces break into a friendly smile at the slightest provocation.

The most obvious reminder of its Spanish history is found in the central plaza, dominated by the twin towers of the Metropolitan Cathedral, which dates to 1782. In front, photographers have set up stalls offering photo opportunities with gaudy pictures of flowers and life-size plastic horses. Having a photo taken here is a popular activity after Sunday mass or on holidays.

Equally gaudy are the bright pinatas that fill an entire street of shops and come in all shapes and sizes. A car? A spaceship? Spiderman? A Smurf? You got it, ready in time for your birthday party or first baptism. In tiny, over-crowded back rooms, teams of young men or husbands and wives weave wire together, then cover it in papier-mâché before painting on the colors. Margins are tight, and getting tighter they tell me, as they show off their creations with pride.  Then they go back to work, laughing and joking.

DSC04842

Elvis at a urinal during a celebrity lookalikes convention in Las Vegas. The enduring popularity of Elvis here goes back to his ”Vegas Years” - a record-breaking seven-year run between 1969 and 1976 when he was the ”must-see” act. Photo by Kieran Meeke / Alamy

Kieran Meeke

Kieran Meeke

Agency
Alamy

Elvis at a urinal during a celebrity lookalikes convention in Las Vegas. The enduring popularity of Elvis here goes back to his ”Vegas Years” - a record-breaking seven-year run between 1969 and 1976 when he was the ”must-see” act.

Other stories about Guatemala