The Big Idea: Leopoldo Gout

A beloved part of childhood celebrations has a darker past than most people realize — and for author Leopoldo Gout, this is only one secret that the past holds, which came to be part and parcel of how his novel Piñata came to be.


Piñatas can be seen as a symbol of hiding joy in plain sight. As kids we sang the piñata song and banged those colorful objects in anger and violence to access that joy. To have that rush of joy in that moment that the candy cascades and everyone jumps to grab it like a bizarre wrestling match. How can this object of pure adrenaline and joy have such a dark history?

That is the origin for the big idea behind Piñata. I literally peeled things about its history of where the piñata tradition comes from and how the rituals became what they are today. In this research the truth came far more horrifying than I could ever imagine…

Let me first frame a little about my personal journey. Years ago, I was around ten years old on a trip to Chiapas in the south of Mexico, to visit a banged up old hacienda where my father had been born. This broken-down old property in the mountains of Chiapas was being swallowed by the surrounding tropical forests of the area. They crept in from the property lines, inching forward to retake the land. But even on the crumbling walls there were the memories of rage left by the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Bullets peppered the walls from the battles which tore Chiapas apart. This abandoned hacienda was near to some of the most ancient pyramids in Mexico. All these abandoned buildings dancing through a give and take with nature. Again, echoing this rage and love. When I started Piñata I went to these memories of Chiapas and where I grew up: Mexico City…

Piñata: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powells

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Read the full article at: The Big Idea: Leopoldo Gout

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