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The Toys from the Last Santero

By Jesús Aguado

The “toys” in question are not actually toys but decorative statuettes. La Esquina, Museo del Juguete Popular Mexicano (La Esquina, The Museum of the Mexican Popular Toy) has an exhibition of 30 Nativity scenes on display from December to January. The items on exhibit range from simple, featuring three figures (St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and an angel), to the complex, displaying an entire villa with shepherds carrying sheep to offer to the holy newborn, people drawing water at a well, or just adoring the baby Jesus.

The scenes are made of all kinds of materials: clay, wood, fabric, cardboard and brass, among others; they also display statues of the Three Wise Men offering their gold, myrrh and incense to baby Jesus, who happily lies in a crib with straw, flanked by the traditional mule and ox.

Nacimiento de madera estofada is one of the more complex Nativity scenes, made up of seven sculptures—the baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and the angel, plus the Three Wise Men. It was made by Genaro Almanza. Ángeles Almanza previously told Atención that he learned the task of making saints from his father, Donato Almanza. This Nativity scene at the museum “perpetuates the tradition of love of Mexican families.”

Monthly, the museum picks an outstanding piece on exhibit to highlight. In December, that honor belongs to Concepción Balderas, a woman from Celaya who is known for making fabric toys. She is also known as “the dolls and dreams maker.” The piece on display from this toymaker is an homage to the first Nativity scene, made 794 years ago by St. Francis of Assisi. The pieces are inspired by her grandmother’s tradition of “taking ideas from quotidian images and popular festivities and transforming them in something incredible,” she said.

The Museo del Juguete is situated at the corner of Núñez and San Francisco. It is open from Tue to Sat from10am–6pm and Sundays from 11am–4pm. General admission is 50 pesos; the elderly, students, and children pay 35 pesos.

Blue Eyes

In San Miguel, there are two popular markets: San Juan de Dios and Ignacio Ramírez. In these places, there is also a tianguis area where annually, seasonal vendors offer all kinds of ornaments that make for a happier Christmas.

Besides flares, lights, plastic creations that simulate snow, little candles, and “angel’s hair,” the main pieces for sale are the statues for the Nativity scene. The prices of the pieces depend on the size and the material (plaster and plastic). The baby Jesus pieces are of three colors: black with blue eyes, white with brown eyes, and brown with green eyes. The smallest Jesus costs just 25 pesos and the most expensive costs 350 pesos.

A Nativity scene—with statues of about 40 centimeters—cost 3,800 pesos, and includes a baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, an angel, the ox, and the donkey, plus the Three Wise Men.

At the markets, there are also seasonal fruits and cheap candies available. They are open daily from 9am-9pm.

 

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