Only in recent years have Mexican children had access to mass-produced toys. In rural areas and for the poorer families Barbie dolls and toy trains are still out of reach. This does not mean that these children have no toys. A little girl’s tea set, lovingly crafted by her mother from the local clay, or a boy’s top, hand-carved by his father from a tree branch, are no less valued than something imported from China or turned on a lathe.
Mexican parents make toys of wood, clay, paper, papier mache, cloth, straw, tin or other metal, rubber, plastic or anything else handy to the delight of their children. They may be carved from wood, fashioned from cornhusks or woven straw, molded from clay or paper pulp or hand sewn from scraps. Some are elegant, some are crude, but all are colorfully and lavishly dressed. What young miss would not love this serene matron carrying her own baby and standing proudly beside an open display of dishes and cooking utensils that are undoubtedly her own creations? The tiny cazuelas, platillos and canastas are perfect in every detail, right down to the glazes and styles of decoration. There is even a woven palm fan to keep the lady of the house cool on sultry days and a miniature grater for the cheese to top her tacos and casseroles.
Young men, of course, do not play with dolls. They fight miniature battles with toy warriors of wood, clay or metal in which the Indians always defeat the cowboys, Zapatistas always overcome Federales and simple peons always put soldiers like this dashing cavalryman on his fiery white charger to rout. The debonair Frenchman, despite his elegant uniform, golden sword and bravely flourished tricolor, would have to be on the losing side. The tot old enough to understand his own history should be thrilled to know that his people once defeated soldiers like this in their fight for independence.
Village children may not have many expensive, fluffy, fake fur animals to cuddle. They often have to make do with the real live kittens and puppies and chicks and lambs that are part of their everyday life, but this hardly means they have no animal toys. Depending on the skill of the village carvers, seam-
stresses and potters, they may have whole menageries of carved, modeled and stuffed animals to play with. Horses and jaguars, roosters and macaws, coyotes and armadillos, real oxen or imaginary unicorns, you can almost bet that somewhere there is a replica of the creature clutched in chubby little hands. This rabbit of Huichol beadwork is only one of an infinite variety of such toys. There seem to be dozens of traveling circuses in Mexico. It is a remote and isolated village indeed which is not visited by at least one during the course of a year. Children love the color and excitement of the big top and clowns and acrobats, trapeze artists and lion tamers, carousels tilt-a-whirls all make wonderful subjects for toy makers.
Until tomorrow: If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.