It’s Child’s Play
Mexico has long been a world leader in toy making, along with China and Spain. Even though the advent of Barbie dolls and other plastic toys have invaded the market, traditional toys are still easy to find in Puerto Vallarta and make memorable souvenirs.
Among the most common toys found in Puerto Vallarta at street markets and the tiangues (flea market) are whistles, yo-yos, tops, train sets and cars and other handcrafted wood items. The brightly painted cup with ball attached to a string is an addicting game and loved by kids of all ages.
The traditional game of Oca, with its colorful board, also known as The Game of the Goose, can be a challenge to find in tourist markets. However, Loteria is an ancient game that is still widely played and can be found everywhere. The images of devils, drunks, sun and moon, spiders and scorpions, hearts and flowers have been adapted in everything from notebook covers and lampshades to jewelry and refrigerator magnets. Both games are great for practicing one’s Spanish.
Small stuffed animals, such as coyotes, deer, giraffe, elephants, monkeys and pigs can be found at market sites in Puerto Vallarta. Originally made in the state of Oaxaca, these are crafted from course wool and stitched with detail. They are made in a variety of colors, all hand-dyed.
Our personal favorite for a gift to our non-Mexican friends is the María doll. They are also sold on the streets of Puerto Vallarta and found everywhere in Mexico, though they also originated in Oaxaca. Often you will find Mexican ladies, sometimes accompanied by their little ones, sitting on the sidewalk, selling and crafting these rag dolls. Made from cloth and dressed to imitate indigenous women, they wear traditional outfits from differing Mexican cultures. Several sizes are available but the small María hanging on a string is usually sold for as little as ten pesos, an amazing price for a handcrafted toy.
Mexican toys tend to imitate life. Dollhouses are very popular with their miniature furniture, much of it with working parts, drawers that open/close and tiny beds with pillows and quilts. Tea sets; clay dishes, as well as those made with wood and copper; wooden horses, burros with packs full of goods; domestic as well as farm animals. Miniature storefronts with merchandise; carousels and ferris wheels with moving parts and passengers. There is no shortage of imagination.
The material used in the creation of these toys is clever and, like many things Mexican, inventive and ingenious; corn husks; apricot pits; scraps of cloth and clean rags, lace and ribbon; feathers and fur; paper and papier-mâche (cartonería); ceramic, glass and porcelain; palm fronds, straw and seeds, tin and bottles caps.
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