ST. LOUIS — A crowd of St. Louis residents watched Donald Trump debate Hillary Clinton on TV at the Yaquis on Cherokee pizzeria Sunday night, then went outside and pummeled a piñata made in Trump's likeness with a baseball bat.
Trump piñatas are nothing new to restaurant owner Francis Rodriguez. In fact, Sunday evening marked the fourth time Rodriguez commissioned a Trump piñata for residents of Cherokee Street to "thump" since last fall.
Rodriguez said the piñata events aren't held out of malice but as a way to celebrate a Mexican custom. Rodriguez, who is Mexican-American, said piñatas are often used in Mexico and Central America as a way to poke fun at powerful political figures.
Rodriguez said New York billionaire Trump, whom he christened "El Trumpo," fit the bill perfectly. "The Don," he said, "represents the sorts of billionaires we're up against as small business owners.
"If someone is giving you the blues in Mexico, the devil or anyone like that, you build a piñata, sometimes even if you like the person," Rodriguez said. "It's the only way we can ridicule him, because if the one percent wanted, they could grind us into powder and sell us by the pound. Humor is the only way we can go up against this; it's the only weapon we have, and we're going to wield it."
Rodriguez has previously held Trump piñata events on the two most recent Mexican Independence days and on Cinco de Mayo this year. Cara Spencer, alderman of St. Louis' 20th ward, has attended all four events and said they bring together community members and small business owners on Cherokee Street.
Rodriguez said the street, in combination with the Gravois Park neighborhood, is a "center for state progressive politics."
"This was a symbolic action for members to take in a primarily Hispanic business district," Spencer said. "It's very common to have a piñata here, and it's not as offensive as some might think. It's a lot of fun for the crowd."
Brennan Ponder, who works at local silkscreen shop Art Farm, helped create all four Trump piñatas. He uses Yaquis pizza boxes, old newspapers and corn husks that he spray-paints and glues together with wheat paste.
"(Political piñatas) are a long, healthy tradition; we're happy to play a little part of keeping alive here," Ponder said.
As the second presidential debate drew to a close, Rodriguez took the lead in swinging at "El Trumpo." Ultimately, the piñata unleashed a torrent of Doritos and Fritos bags for the onlookers to collect. Rodriguez shared some laughs with crowd members and then returned to work — but not before collecting the piñata head for safe keeping.
"We're artists, and we want something to be collected. These heads are going to be collected and catalogued by a local museum," Rodriguez said. "That's a big plus for us."
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.
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