Dia de los Muertos / Day of the Dead

Papel Picado

Among the many paper arts found in Latino communities, papel picado, piñatas, papier-mâché, and kites, are the most popular. The origins of these traditional paper arts lie in pre-conquest times as Indigenous peoples in the Americas used paper made from natural products such as plants and animal skins to record historical events as well as for decoration. 


Papel picado artists use a number of specialized drawing and cutting tools, first laying out the intricate traditional designs to shape images or words—akin to silhouettes—on the paper and then punching out designs. It is laborious and careful work, and the master artists are the busiest during key festival dates: for Mexican Independence Day the designs include the words “viva Mexico” or show the silhouettes of heroes of the Mexican Revolution such as Morelos; for Day of the Dead the designs include the ever present Calavera, skull, or Catrina on the sheets of tissue paper to be strung at home altars and at the cemetery on November 1st and 2nd; or for Christmas, designs of Santa Claus or Christmas trees are punched out on the paper garlands to be strung out for the traditional Posadas or Pastorelas.



E. Cantú, N. (2012). PAPER ARTS (PAPEL PICADO, PAPIER mâché, AND KITES). In M. Herrera-Sobek, Celebrating Latino folklore: an encyclopedia of cultural traditions. ABC-CLIO. Credo Reference: https://ezproxy.ollusa.edu/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/abcclioclft/paper_arts_papel_picado_papier_mache_and_kites/0?institutionId=3517

The History and Tradition of Papel Picado