From the print edition
At Latin American celebrations, breaking the piñata is a classic activity. Piñatas are found in all shapes, sizes and designs; whether you wish for a cartoon character, a fancy car, favorite animal or something more personal, you can usually find it. Piñatas Aromati, an Atenas-based family business, can create any piñata you can imagine.
Located in the tranquil outskirts of the western Central Valley coffee town, co-owners and spouses Marvin Rodríguez and Lizeth Brenes are often busy with the production of festive piñata designs ranging from Angry Birds to Spider-Man characters to Mickey Mouse.
“In Costa Rica, piñatas are the highlight of every party,” Rodríguez says.
In the airy corridor of the family’s house, approximately 35 handcrafted, customized piñatas emerge per week. They are all manufactured with recycled materials, such as cardboard and newspaper, says Rodríguez, a 34-year-old architecture student. The piñata, Rodríguez explains, is first decorated, then filled by the customer with candy, peanuts and toys. Later, at the fiesta, competing attendants break it open with a stick.
The piñata may have originated in China, and legend has it that Venetian traveler Marco Polo introduced it to Europe in the 14th century. Two centuries later, Spanish conquistadors brought it to the New World, where indigenous people already had a similar tradition, using a clay pot or calabash. Although Catholic missionaries adopted it to attract converts to the church, the piñata eventually lost its religious significance in Costa Rica and has become a purely fun affair.
Placing white circles on the face of a Mickey Mouse, Brenes, 28, talks about how Piñatas Aromati began in 2008. With the onset of the economic crisis, the couple lost their jobs and began looking for a catchy business idea to make a living. They wanted their own shop in San José, and eventually they visited Fiesta Centro, a retailer selling party supplies.
“Talking to the store owner, we learned that most piñatas were simple and came imported from Guatemala and Mexico,” Brenes recalls. There was demand for customized piñatas at that time, and Fiesta Centro helped to land the couple’s first job: a large whale.
“It was a challenge,” Brenes says. To make this unique piñata took them two weeks of researching and experimenting with designs and materials. But they didn’t give up, and the whale became a success.
Eventually, the couple found their niche, branding Piñatas Aromati with an acronym of their two sons’ names, Aron and Matias. Since then, the business has been constantly growing. Rodríguez’s cousin began working with them, as well as two more employees from Atenas. From birthdays to baby showers and theme parties, their products remain in demand.
“With our two boys, ages 5 and 10, in school, and a third child to be born soon, we are happy now,” Brenes says. “We love what we do, and life is treating us well!”
The piñatas can be purchased in Fiesta Centro stores in Pavas, Escazú, Curridabat and Tibás. Piñatas Aromati is on Facebook, where customers can order online. For more information, call 2446-3295 or 8990-1119; the family’s workshop is in Sabana Larga of Atenas, on the old road to Jacó, in front of the entrance to Vista Atenas.