Papel Picado – A Brief History
Most of the outdoor celebrations seen throughout Mexico are decorated using papel picado, or pierced paper. Panels of intricately pierced tissue paper are threaded on long strands of string, and hung in villages between rooftops, across porches, and inside ballrooms. Papel picado is a “must have” decoration for any Mexican themed fiesta.
During the 19th century, in the era of the haciendas, laborers purchased all of their necessities from the hacienda store. Most of these stores stocked papel de China, or Chinese paper, known in English as tissue paper. The laborers began to use the paper available to them to create elaborate decorations for their festivities, possible producing extra so that they could sell them to other haciendas. In time, the laborers developed into artisans, advancing the craft of papel picado to an art form, and passing the skill on to each new generation.
Today, the descendants of these laborers are still producing papel picado, but have included new materials such as plastic sheeting and Mylar. Using straight pins, and metal chisels, the artisans carefully carve their designs into the paper, cutting away the unneeded portions to reveal their designs. Careful thought is given as to which portion of the paper should be removed, so that the deisgn is clear, but the paper remains resilient.
At Melissa Guerra, we take pride in working directly with the artisans in procuring papel picado. It is our hope that we can help ensure the continuation of this endangered art form with next generation of artisans.