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Mexican wooden toys for Three Kings Day

In the San Antonio La Isla municipality, State of Mexico, 500 artisans keep an ancient tradition alive

Mexican wooden toys for Three Kings Day
Two decades ago, the wooden products were made out of strawberry tree, a type of wood that is very appreciated for its quality - Photo: Mario Arturo Martínez/EL UNIVERSAL
English 03/01/2019 14:36 Claudia González Mexico City Actualizada 14:36
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In the San Antonio La Isla municipality, State of Mexico, 500 artisans try to keep an ancient tradition alive by making wooden toys for the children on the eve of Three Kings Day.

Luis Mendoza Estrada, one of the yo-yos craftsmen in a family workshop located in the center of town, has dedicated 20 years of his life to the production of Mexican wooden toys. His parents taught him the craft. At some point he worked at a local factory but then decided to return to his workshop.

He explained that there had been some changes in his line of business. Two decades ago, the wooden products were made out of strawberry tree, a type of wood that is very appreciated for its quality. However, the use of said material has been prohibited for environmental reasons. Now, they use pinewood.

Nowadays, the wood he uses is under-appreciated by customers, since there are places where craftspeople use chipboard and a mix of wood and cardboard. Due to their low cost, it allows the competition to sell their products at a lower price.

“I have three brothers, but I have cousins and uncles who also make wooden toys. Each of us specializes in a different branch; for instance, I make yo-yos, my brothers make pirinolas, some also make wooden planes, churumbelas, and tops. A lot of our production goes to other states and we sell them at fairs and public squares. Customers usually try to haggle because they think our toys are not made of real wood,” he commented.

From 6:00 to 22:00 hours, Mendoza Estrada makes up to 100 pieces of five different sizes ranging from 0.5 to 3 inches, each sold for between MXN$4 and $8.

The toymaker uses up to 10 pinewood logs a month, out of which he is able to produce 700 yo-yos.

During the Three Kings Day season, he claims that sales usually don’t show a substantial increase, since the products are not on children’s wish lists. Furthermore, plastic products are one of their main competitors, since the toys are cheaper.

Despite adversity, he pointed out that the wooden toys have caught the interest of other communities.
 

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