Latinx Heritage Arts and Crafts Workshop

The papel picado workshop held in honor of Latinx Heritage Month was moderated by Councilor Rosa Carrillo. Photo credit: Lily Marmolejo

The papel picado workshop hosted by Cerritos College counselor Rosa Carrillo in honor of Latinx Heritage Month taught attendees the meaning and history of papel picado and how to create their own papel picado banner.

The online event had a small audience and started late due to technical difficulties. Despite this, the participants were very friendly, attentive and interactive during the workshop.

For attendees, there were packages available for pickup in the administration building filled with supplies to create this fine craft.

Papel Picado translates to shredded paper or confetti. It is an arts and crafts project from Mexico. The birthplace of this craft is San Salvador Huixcolotla, Puebla.

This tradition originated in Mexico spread through a known trade route for the export of goods from China and the Philippines. One item that remained in the area was a fine colored tissue paper known as papel de chine.

Papel Picado decorates architecture throughout Mexico. It is basically paper that has been perforated with various or minimalist designs and used as decoration.

An example of a simple papel picado design made by consultant Rosa Carrillo.
An example of a simple papel picado design made by consultant Rosa Carrillo.

The workshop featured a PowerPoint presentation teaching participants that this craft existed in pre-Hispanic times and was used by Mesoamerican cultures. These cultures used a tree bark known as amatl for their papel picado, a material very different from the colored tissue papers used today.

In addition to tissue paper “You can also use foil or thin plastic streamers. They will come out really beautiful, ”said Councilor Rosa Carrillo.

Each piece of tissue paper used has a different color meaning, purple is a reference to the Catholic religion, blue for those who died in water, red represents warriors who died in battle or women who died during childbirth, green represents individuals who died young, white is for children, yellow is for old people, black represents the underworld and pink represents Mexico, color and pride. Orange was a very important color because it represented the sun and the Aztecs believed it was the only color the deceased could see.

Councilor Rosa Carrillo gives a brief demonstration on how to fold and cut out a freehand drawing.
Councilor Rosa Carrillo gives a brief demonstration on how to fold and cut out a freehand drawing.

Towards the end of the presentation, Councilor Carrillo demonstrated how to create arts and crafts at home. here is a papel picado banner tutorial.

“Patience you really need patience, it’s gonna get a little tricky with all the little pieces flying around but in the end you’ll have a really good creation,” Carrillo said as he cut out his design.

Some of the workshop participants tried out this craft hands-free while others decided to use a model.

“I actually made a paperclip [papel picado design] model because it allowed me to cut more easily. Carrillo said.

It is typical to see buildings and altars decorated with papel picado all year round in Mexico and in Spanish speaking communities. This craft becomes popular around Halloween and Dia de los Muertos on November 1 and 2, a party intended to celebrate the deceased.

The main presentation informed participants that the numbers on the paper represent land, rain, water, agriculture and the underworld. In the past, papel picado banners were used as offerings to various deities and to the deceased. It was said that Amatl linked the word of the living to the world of the dead.


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