New Piñata Trumps Usual Party Props For Mexican Entrepreneur
Donald Trump never met Dalton Javier Ramirez. But the 69-year-old real estate mogul would have a grudging respect for the ambitious 28-year-old piñata entrepreneur.
Ramirez claims to be the first piñata maker in Mexico or the United States to create the Trump piñata. He's based in the town of Reynosa, across the Rio Grande from Hidalgo, Texas. In the past two months, news stories about him have appeared around the world. And the Facebook page of Piñateria Ramirez has 11,000 likes and counting.
Ever since Trump spoke out against Mexico exporting its criminals to the United States, Latinos have expressed loathing of the GOP's leading candidate. Despite his attempts to mollify our southern neighbor, it's not working. Dalton Ramirez can't make Trump piñatas fast enough.
"I wanted some new ideas for piñatas that people would want to buy because our sales were down," says Ramirez. "Our American customers had abandoned us. They didn't want to come to Reynosa because of the insecurity. I never thought they would want this piñata all over the US. They're ordering them for demonstrations and marches. I even have a museum in Houston that wants one."
Ramirez is stout, with a baby face and a devilish look in his eyes. His shop consists of a single room on Bravo Street, about five minutes from the international bridge. It's rustic, cluttered, and stiflingly hot.
His younger sister, Denis, is pasting yellow tissue paper onto the papier-mache figure's head to create the distinctive hairpiece that she calls "the birds nest."
Dalton Ramirez thinks about piñatas entirely differently than his parents did. They had a shop in Reynosa for 30 years. Their oldest son tires of making Mickey Mouse and the ice princess from the Walt Disney Pictures' Frozen for kids' birthday parties—though they're still his bread and butter.
In the past year, he's created piñatas of the escaped druglord, El Chapo Guzman, the Oscar-winning Mexican director of Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu, a topless Kim Kardashian, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. His most scandalous handiwork was the papier-mache figures of a couple from Fifty Shades of Grey in flagrante delicto.
"We posed the protagonists in positions that were...a little curious," Ramirez says, carefully choosing his words. "And we had problems. In February, people from the city government came to us and said these piñatas are dangerous for children. They wanted to close my workshop."
But it was the Donald Trump piñatas that really caught on.
He says he's sold about 40 of them at $40 apiece—mostly to Americans—and he has orders for a dozen more. That may not seem like a lot, but it's been a bonanza for Piñateria Ramirez.
He's hired two more workers. He's looking for a larger workshop with air conditioning. And he wants to get a new car and paint it to advertise the store.
But what's been most satisfying for Dalton Ramirez has been the response of Mexican-Americans on Facebook—not those who cheered him for satirizing Trump, but those who thanked him for doing something positive for Reynosa. This industrial border city across from Hidalgo, Texas, has been plagued with cartel violence in recent years.
"They said, 'Hey, they're from Mexico which is only known for shootouts and violence and insecurity, but now there's a famous piñata place in Reynosa,' " Ramirez says. "The people appreciate us because we're not doing anything bad!"
Thrilled at the success of his now-widely-copied Donald Trump piñata, Dalton Ramirez has decided to stay with the theme of American politics.
He's almost ready to roll out his first Hillary Clinton piñata.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.