Connections: Piñatas de Juan Castillo

Juan Castillo, at home in Tucson, Ariz., working on his next piñata. Spiderman and Winnie the Pooh are just two of the many characters he's produced in this form.
by Quest Staff on May 1, 2005 - 9:59am


Where: Tucson, Ariz.

DX: Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, 20 years

What: A former building maintenance worker, Castillo enjoys creating festive and fun piñatas for decoration or use at children’s birthday parties.

He fills requests from friends and family members and sells them for $25 to $100, depending on complexity.

He has made hundreds of piñatas, including Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, SpongeBob, Barney, Bart Simpson and a bobble-head Spiderman. Currently, he's working on a traditional Mexican piñata for his niece Paula’s 15th birthday.

How: He uses balloons to build the character’s body and cardboard for the arms and legs. Then, he cuts newspaper strips with a paper cutter and covers the model with the help of a flour-water mixture that acts as glue.

Loss of strength in his hands makes it difficult to grip pieces. Castillo can only apply two to three layers a day, because work has to be completely dry before continuing the papier-mâché. He uses curled tissue paper or colored felt to decorate.

The whole process takes two and a half weeks to two and a half months, and he goes into detail far beyond what’s available in stores.

Juan says: "My father used to make them for us when we were kids. One time, he had blown up a balloon and put paper on it and what he did was cut it in half.

"He kept one half and gave me the other half, just to see what I would do. I ended up making a flower basket out of it. From then on, just for fun, like a hobby, I just started making more. It’s mostly for family members, birthday parties and for friends.

"Working with piñatas helps me keep my hands strong, even though my thumb’s losing strength and I tend to drop things. I work two hours at a time and rest. I use a paper cutter so I don’t have to struggle with scissors."

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