Mas México USA

Why do we use papel picado on Day of the Dead?

When it’s about celebrations, Mexicans know how to do them. Food, music, decorations and mood must be perfect. We are pretty good on many things, but parties are our highlight. Now that Day of the Dead is getting closer, we must be prepared with candles, cempasúchil flowers, pan de muerto, mole, fruit, sugar skulls, copal… and of course, papel picado.

Papel picado 1
uanl.mx

This decoration must not be missing, unless you want your guests feel unwelcome. After all, the first days of november are pure celebration and there is no better way to show it than with papel picado. Who hasn’t admired the unique design of this fragile piece of paper?

A meaningful paper

It is very versatile. You can decorate any kind of party, from national holidays to religious ones, but on the Day of the Dead this paper has a special meaning. It is placed in the altar as a representation of air and, also, each color has a different meaning.

White is for children, green for the young, yellow for the elderly and red for soldiers or women who died giving birth. Orange means mourn, blue is for those whose death was related with water. Purple is for the catholics and black is the underworld.

Papel picado in Mexico

As rice paper got to Mexico until the Spanish came, our aztec ancestors used amatl instead. This was a rough paper made out of wild mulberry’s bark and fig trees. They used to make banners to decorate temples and houses.

Papel picado as we know it today originated until mid XIX century. However, in Europe this kind of paper had been done since the XIV century and was known under the name of cut paper.

In Mexico, it began to be manufactured when farm workers were sent to buy it from little stores.

Its creation is attributed to the municipality of San Salvador Huixcolotla, in Puebla. Distribution began in Puebla and Tlaxcala in 1930, but it was not until the sixties when it arrived to Mexico City. After this, the whole country knew about papel picado.

Papel picado 2
Milenio

The creative process from the people in San Salvador is to put the design on a bundle of 50 sheets of paper. Then they shape it with chisels.

This technique has been taught from generation to generation. In fact, papel picado is considered Cultural Heritage of Puebla since 1988.

Because papel picado shouts Mexico.

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Yanni Leyte

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