When I visited Mexico City several years ago I happened to notice how unusually prevalent toys were. People selling them. People playing with them, both children and adults. I could conjecture a number of causes for this. Probably the biggest reason is that everyone has families and children. When people go out to the Paseo de la Reforma or the Zócalo they bring their children, and if they are going to buy anything, they’ll buy things for their children. Another reason is that toys and candy are not a costly purchases. They are minor pleasures that can be enjoyed without weighing one’s desire for them over other things. I think vendors are so common because it’s quite customary to buy things from people on the street; not really the case in the core economies where most commerce is mediated through large established institutions.
I went to an art exhibit at the Museo de Arte Moderno that actually seemed to support this notion I had developed that Mexicans are preoccupied with toys. Works in the exhibition were from artists who drew inspiration from mass manufactured play objects and games. THe works that were featured were simply delightful. They were bright and wondrous, made from neat material. Some of the objects did things. You were intended to engage with the works as a child would toys in a toy store. Each one was remarkably alluring. I’m not sure how successful the works were as art, since they sort of lured one away from a critical position towards things and invited guests to instead indulge in amusement and escapism. Unfortunately, I’m not able to find documentation of the exhibit anywhere on the internet. I didn’t take pictures of it either. Though the source doesn’t label them, I believe the three installations in the video below were a part of the exhibit.
In the absence of other works from the exhibit, here are some images of Mexican toys and toy vendors…
Masks seemed to be a popular toy to sell, though I never saw anybody wearing one.
Woman selling dolls from a gondola in the Bosque de Chapultepec.
Traditional rub dolls. Apparently, the custom of making rug dolls for little girls dates from before the Conquest.
Mexican Barbi, for sale at Kmart.com. Her dress is from the 1800s. She has a widened nose and a chihuahua wedged between her elbow and rib cage, so as to make her recognizably Mexican, I guess.
Luche Libre wrestling figures. One of the best loved toys in Mexico for decades.
Your typical candy stand. Arresting color, bizarre texture, unidentifiable taste. Mexicandies should qualify as toy, I think. The kind of enchantment that surrounds it resembles the fetishization kids have for toys.