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Rescuing the Mexican Popular Toy

By Karla Ortiz

On June 7, The Museum of the Mexican Popular Toy opened the new exhibition Tomás and Josué Met and Played Together in the Corner, the result of two young artists synergizing their talents in order to promote the Mexican art of papier-mâché handicrafts.

Tomás Bernal Cruz and Josué Castro Razo first came into contact when both began participating in handmade traditional toy contests and forged a friendship that led to this exhibition. Both made 10 pieces each for the exhibition and collaborated on one piece—of a skull and a calenda doll (a large papier-mâché sculpture character traditional to Oaxaca) in motion. The exhibition runs until September 30.

Cruz is a 25-year-old young man who initially learned weaving from his grandfather in his native Oaxaca but at the age of 12 began creating calenda dolls. He eventually decided to branch out and make papier-mâché toys such as carts or airplanes. One day, someone approached him and suggested he enter his toys in contests.

As for Josué, a 25-year-old young man from Chihuahua, he adopted the customs and traditions of Salamanca, Guanajuato. He studied mechanical engineering and learned cartonería (the Mexican art of making papier-mâché sculpture, usually from cardboard and/or newsprint paper) from his teacher Osvaldo Ruela, who passed on his knowledge and taste for Mexican popular traditions. He started making traditional cartonería sculptures—Catrinas, Judases, alebrijes (sculptures of mythical creatures). From there he began to participate in small contests until he thought of merging his career with his passion and created his first mechanical toys, and the joy that came from seeing people surprised by dolls of moving cardboard motivated him to continue with the project.

The two men have many things in common, one of which is their determination to

raise awareness of their work among young people, in hopes of getting them interested in the these traditions so that they are not lost to future generations.

 

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