I’ve given lots of gifts and toys over the years to children, grand children and the children of friends. I don’t think I ever thought too much about what toys tell us about our culture, our aspirations, and our history.
There’s Barbie, G. I. Joe, a coon skin hat like Davy Crockett’s, and Roy Roger’s chaps and holster stuffed with a cap gun. What did we learn from the toys we received–the ones we whined for and pleaded for–what did our children understand about life in the United States, its past and present and future. As Buzz Lightyear said “To infinity and beyond.”
I went to the Toy Museum in the Centro of San Miguel last week. It’s housed in a gorgeous 3-story Colonial period home–still occupied by the owner. Various municipal and private foundations help to fund the operation of the Museum. The modest admission is 50 pesos. There is a small gift shop as well.
As I climbed the stairs to the final floor with its roof top patio I was amazed at what I learned peering into all the myriad cases crowded with all manner of games, dolls, and toys.
The items I loved the most were the exquisitely made miniatures–a ceramic dinner service painted in traditional patterns no piece taller than my thumb. A tiny basket shop its walls covered in realistic baskets of all shapes woven from straw and perfectly made.
I thought about the men and women who made these things probably after having worked all day. Probably receiving very little in wages and very little for the toys they made using materials readily at hand. I thought about the children who received these toys and how carefully they must have taken care of them. The fact that so many of these toys survived is amazing. Children are hard on their toys. They often are completely destroyed. But we’ve all know a child who guards and cares for their toys leaving them in perfect condition long after the child grows up. So here are some of the highlights.
Two items caught my eye; one in a painting, the other in a case of dolls. I asked Luis when I got home who was the Ninja like character with the rifle?
“That’s Comandante Marcos. The leader of the indigenous people of Chiapas. You often see a woman wearing a red bandana and carrying a rifle. The women participated in the revolution–Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional– too.” Subcomandante Marcos led the fight to get fair wages and equitable treatment from the government for the indigenous people. Now the people have secured a municipality of their own.
The images of anglo women and girls.
There is a wealth of meaning within each of these figures. I wish I knew more, but for now, I’ll just enjoy what I saw and felt.