It all started innocently enough. My daughter, Gwen, was turning 4, which is a really magical age. The tantrums were over. She was incredibly curious, loving and outgoing. She was experiencing new things every day.
So I made the fateful decision to throw a pinata party for her. I live in northern California and there are tiendas all over the place selling colorful pinatas in all kinds of shapes, from traditional donkeys to modern characters like Sponge Bob Square Pants. We try not to expose our daughter to too many commercial tie ins, so I went with a nice looking traditional donkey in red, blue green and yellow.
The party itself went wonderfully. Gwen loved the pinata. The kids loved the excitement of breaking it open and, of course, the candy. After all the presents were opened, the cake eaten, and the guests gone home, all Gwen could talk about was how much fun the pinata was. She’d broken it open in one mighty swing and had been reveling in it all day. She even insisted on sleeping with the pinata bat she’d used. I kissed my little girl goodnight, she said “night-night da-da” and rolled over. I turned off the lights, not knowing that this would be the last night by daughter would sleep in innocence.
I woke up the next morning not to an alarm going off or the sun shining in my eyes, but the crunch of the pinata bat breaking my zygomatic bone. Gwen had woken up early, about 5:30 am, still excited about the pinata party. She wanted more. She’d come into the room and when I didn’t wake up to her whispers of “da-da,” she’d took the bat hit me with it, giggling in delight. I was stunned by the initial hit and Gwen whacked me with the bat two or three more times before my wife realized what was happening and stopped it.
When we tallied the damage up, my zygomatic was broken in two places, I had a tooth knocked out, my cheek split, requiring a few stitches, a concussion and blurred vision in one eye. But the worst thing wasn’t the physical damage done to me, it was the emotional damage done to my daughter. She thought she was just coming in to wake me up and then have some fun, but the response to “the fun” was clear – she’d done something very, very bad. Neither my wife nor I tried to make Gwen feel bad, but my months of convalescence did it anyway. The happy, loving, outgoing 4 year old was gone. In her place is a shy, withdrawn little girl who is reminded of what she did every time she sees the scar on my cheek.
Gwen has been in counseling and it is helping some. During my recovery, I looked up pinata related violence and discovered that it is pervasive – and virtually unreported to the police! I resolved to do something about this epidemic of violence. I’ve lobbied government officials to ban pinatas. I’ve done speeches at PTA meetings and community centers. Eventually a friend made me this web site so I could take my story to the internet and educate more than just the people in my little community about the dangers of pinatas.
I am often accused of racism because of my vehement opposition to pinatas – northern California has a large Mexican population after all. But I want to be clear that this has nothing to do with the people of Mexico. Yes, they are largely a violent society, with the pinatas, the bull fights, the criminals coming across our borders and what not. But for the most part they seem to be hard workers – they mow our yards, clean our houses and pick up our trash. I applaud them for trying to make a better life for themselves. But I deplore the importation of their violent “sports” like pinata bashing parties.
I hope my story has moved you to join my fight against pinatas. If you want to help, there are lots of things you can do. Pressure your elected officials to ban pinatas. Refuse to attend pinata parties. Picket tiendas that sell pinatas. Introduce your friends and family to my site. Together we can make sure that the premature end of innocence pinatas brought down on my daughter doesn’t happen to your kids