Esther Ortiz, Contemporary Piñatas, and El Dia De Los Muertos

A woman sitting behind a table with pinatas on it

Dia De Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday where families celebrate the lives and souls of their deceased loved ones. The translation of the Spanish name is "Day of the Dead" or "All Souls Day."

With the appropriation of Mexican culture running rampant through this holiday each year, we wanted to share some information about the holiday, the pint-sized piñatas we have in our shop, and the wonderful woman who makes them all by hand - Esther Ortiz.

Esther was born in Mexico and then moved to California when she was just eight months old. She, her eight sisters, and their parents ended up in Erie in 1994 after an earthquake shook the California town they were living in. She hasn't always had an interest in making piñatas - it was a visit to a piñata shop in Colorado that piqued her interest and convinced her to start her own business in Erie.

A 3 foot tall piñata skeleton wearing a pink dress, black hat with feathers, and holding roses

Today, Esther's business has given her the creative freedom to express herself through the history of her culture. She's even been teaching piñata-making classes for children and adults. Her piñatas combine the Mexican tradition with just about anything she can dream up - pop culture characters, giant bottles of hot sauce, flowers and desserts, political figures, mini burros (donkeys, which you can find in our gift boxes), and even sugar skulls and skeletons in recognition of Dia De Los Muertos.

The holiday, which is celebrated on November 1 & 2 each year in towns throughout Mexico, consists of feasts, colorful parades, song and dance, costumes, and offerings to lost loved ones. It is meant to honor and celebrate life, rather than experience death as the end of life.

A woman with traditional Mexican Dia De Los Muertos face paint and headdress

Esther's family, while no longer in Mexico, celebrates the holiday similarly to how Americans celebrate Memorial Day: parties and feasts with loved ones, often at the cemeteries where relatives are buried. Except for them, they celebrate October 31st - November 2nd. Children ask for candy on the first day, the second day is a celebration of life for lost children, and the third day honors lost adults. They have gravestones and crosses painted, prepare traditional foods, and dress up in painted skeleton faces and colorful dresses.

Honoring her culture is important to Esther, which is why we are so excited to be able to share some of that with the Erie community. Click the link to purchase one of our gift boxes with Esther's work. To learn more about Esther or to place a custom order, you can visit her on Instagram.

A gift box with a mini pinata, taffy, and greeting card inside