The traditional toys of Mexico: a visit to La Esquina, Mexico’s folk art toy museum
By LAURA FRASER
“La Esquina” Museo del Juguete Popular Mexicano, a terracotta-colored colonial house on a corner of San Miguel de Allende, is the only museum in Mexico dedicated to the country’s folk art toys. Angélica Tijerina started the collection 50 years ago, when her parents began bringing home dolls and toys from their travels all over Mexico.
Five years ago, she turned her colonial home into a whimsical museum dedicated to preserving Mexico’s tradition of elaborate toys and miniatures, made of materials such as vegetable fibers, clay, and wood. The museum, which houses roughly 3000 toys (or juguetes), holds a yearly contest with monetary prizes and the honor of having works displayed. It attracts many thousands of entrants from all across Mexico.
The best toys come from the regions with the strongest craft traditions – Michoacán, Oaxaca, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Guerrero and Veracruz – but the museum has examples from almost every state: miniature scenes of fairs, bullfights, parades, musicians, and wrestling matches, as well as fantastic colored animals and elaborate piñatas.
“Impossible to destroy,” comments Associate Director Carlos Beltrán, as he passes a papier mache muchacha in full costume, made to be stuffed with candy and broken with a stick. Of all the toys in the museum, his favorite is a colorful wooden scene depicting a procession, complete with mariachi band, heading from the church to hell; turn the crank, and the procession keeps rolling, right back around to church.
This miniature clay truck by an unknown artist from Ocumicho, one of the towns in Michoacán, is filled with clay figurines – “everyone going to a fiesta, including the band,” says Beltrán.
Beltrán finds the clay figures from Ocumicho to be more fantastic than those from other regions, where the crafts tend to focus more on everyday life. A prime example is this dragon swing by Maria Genoveva Quiroz Rafael from Ocumicho, and a stack of armadillo banks, in place of piggies, by Tomasa Rafael Julián, from the same town.
This wicker train from Tzintzuntzan by Antonio Cornelio Rendón was a first-place winner; each car contains another mode of transportation — a plane, a car, a boat, and a tractor – all woven from reeds taken from the banks of Lake Pátzcuaro.
La Esquina, Museo del Juguete Popular Mexicano, Coleccion Angélica Tijerina, Nuñez 40, Centro, San Miguel de Allende.