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Date: July 27, 2012 at 12:38 pm- by admin- Posted in News & Updates and tagged Altars, Dia de los Muertos, History of Dia De Los Muertos Holiday, Mexican Day of Dead, Mission San Luis Rey, Papel picado, Sugar skull- Comment(s): 0
Papel picado is a decorative craft made out of paper cut into elaborate designs and means perforated paper. It is used as a holiday decoration in many countries even though it is a Mexican folk art. The design is usually cut from tissue paper with a guide and small chisels or using small, sharp scissors, creating even forty banners at a time. Common motives include birds, floral designs and of course skeletons, making Easter, Christmas and the altar for the Day of the Dead more interesting and beautiful. They can be used also for weddings, baptisms and christenings, usually cut from purple, orange or pink paper.
The craft has roots in Chinese paper cutting, later on made in Europe during the sixteenth century. It had different name then – papel cortado, which means cut paper. The difference between the Mexican papel picado and European papel cortado is because the European version was cut, while the Mexican form is chiseled.
Over the years, papel picado has evolved to the form we see today. At first, papel picado designs were relatively simple, but as they started gaining in popularity, especially with tourists, they started to show more and more complex images that are always funny.
During the middle of the nineteenth century in Mexico, people were forced to buy products from hacienda stores, where the tissue paper was being sold. Before tissue paper became available, Aztecs used mulbery and fig tree barks to make a rough paper called “Amatl”. Artisans usually layer 40 to 50 layers of tissue and punch designs into them using “fierritos”, a type of chisel. Their gods and goddesses were commonly depicted on amatl.
Cutting papel picado was a specialty of Mexican artisans long time ago. They would laboriously hand-cut up to 50 sheets at one time using a special chisel. Huixcolotla, a village in San Salvador, Mexico, was especially famous for wonderful paper cutting. Now there are also machine-made versions available for purchase which puts handmade papel picado in danger of becoming a dying art form. Fortunately, few of the Mexican artists are trying to find a way to revitalize this special art form.
Common Day of the Dead papel picado imagery includes: smiling sugar skulls, skeletons getting married, skeletons on horseback, in a car, riding a bicycle, or on a train, dancing skeletons, skeletons singing and playing instruments and drinking and feasting skeletons. It is fun to try to make it yourself; even kids make some wonderful pieces with little tissue paper, scissors, string and tape.
Most of the Dia de los Muertos art forms, with papel picado among others, are only temporary. It lasts until it’s torn, so the new ones come instead. This is because the tissue paper is delicate so the decorations can’t last long at all. Their purpose is to make the festivals cheerful and fun, until it’s time to take them down. Every decoration is only temporary, like sugar skulls that are meant to be eaten and skeleton paintings on store windows that are washed off when the holiday is over.