Friday, May 21, 2010

Mexican Papel Picado

You can not walk around San Miguel de Allende without seeing the brightly colored strands of papel picado (cut paper) adorning the streets, churches or homes. This is a tradition that can be dated back to PreHispanic time. The indigenous native would make a textured paper called amate from the bark of the fig or mulberry tree. Designs were drawn and cut on the amate and they were strung together. These banners were hung as decorations for religious ceremonies and other celebrations. With the arrival of the Spaniards, large Manila Galleons sailed from China and the Philippines en route to Acapulco with fragile cargo wrapped in tissue paper, papel de China. This papel de China soon became the material of choice to make the papel picado for it was easier to dye and cut.
There are skilled craftsmen that make the papel picado and it is a skill that takes years to learn. Fifty layers of tissue are topped with a master pattern. A hammer and chisels, awls and small knives are used to cut the intricate designs. The designs vary from festival to festival. The designs may include historic figures, skeletons, flower & fauna, saints.... The colors also are specific to the occasion; red and white for Valentine's Day, white for weddings, pink and blue for celebrations in honor of the Virgin Mary, deep purple for Easter, colors of the Mexican flag (red, white & green) for national holidays and to venerate the nation's patroness (Virgin de Guadalupe).
These papel picados have been on Calle Jesus in front of the Parroquia Cafe in San Miguel as long as I can remember. Today you can find papel picado that has been machine stamped and made of plastic or mylar.

Isn't it fabulous how this room is decorated with the papel picado for this festive party. My good friend, Guadalupe Alvarez, who lives in San Miguel de Allende owns Penzi, an event planning company. Guadalupe organizes weddings, parties and events of all kinds. She and her staff take care of everything down to the smallest details; the location, food, decor, flowers, music, customized party favors... You name it, she can get it done. Last week she was in charge of a wedding with SIX HUNDRED guests. It was a huge success!

These custom, hand cut tablecloths take papel picado to another level! Guadalupe works hand and hand with the artisan on the design and the sizes. These mantales (tablecloths) are made from recylced fabric. Now that is green.
I just love the detail in the tablecloths and how beautifully they are used as an overlay on top of the brightly colored cloths.
Lucky me, Guadalupe is having a few table cloths made for me.

Check out her website and let's have a party!

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