Arts

La Pinata: Pinatas Made By Prisoners Near Paris’ Canal Saint Martin

by Sara Rahman

Parisian shops devoted entirely to a single specialty (like olive oil, honey, or communist literature) are considered obvious fixtures in an urban landscape where commercial efficiency is, if anything, an afterthought. So, when my roommate Winnie showed me a place on our street specializing in piñatas, of all things, my only thought was, “Of course. Naturally.” It was, incidentally, just across the street from our radical left-wing bookstore.

Winnie, a journalist, was covering the shop in a story with an unusual social twist. The piñatas, it turns out, are made by prisoners.

The story behind La Piñata, located at 25, rue des Vinaigriers and within view of Canal St. Martin, is a series of fortunate and curious accidents. The Columbian-born owner, Elena Farah, discovered piñata-making while searching for useful employment as a newcomer to Paris in the 80s. Thinking she could bake cakes for children’s birthday parties, she approached a few party shops only to find that while cakes were readily available, piñatas were not. So she set to work.

With the help of a how-to book, Elena began experimenting with the colorful ornaments at home, selling them to a few shops around the city. In 2002, she won a business plan competition and was able to open her atelier at rue des Vinaigriers, where today she keeps shop with one assistant.

Five years ago, inspired by a story on a radio program, Elena began her prison workshop with the help of a business student who was apprenticing with her at the time. As demand for piñatas is limited in Paris, only a few inmates can work with her each year. They spend the better part of the workweek building their piñatas independently, and she visits the prisons every week to deliver materials and check progress. These visits, she says, are very special to her.

Through the workshops, the inmates are able to experience once again (or for the first time) the act of creation, as Elena says, something that makes the apprenticeships so valuable to them.

I find it both strange and beautiful that the feathery strawberries, lions, and Easter eggs floating beneath the ceilings of La Piñata were born in the confines of a prison cell. As a current law student, I am reminded on a daily basis how dehumanizing criminal justice systems can be and how difficult they are to change. When I see a splash of real progress brought by something as seemingly inconsequential as a piñata shop, I am amazed and encouraged.

When I see this happen in Paris, my only thought is, “Of course. Naturally.”

La Piñata is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11h to 19h and Sundays from 15h to 19h. Piñatas are priced starting at 40 Euros.

La Pinata
25, rue des Vinaigriers
Paris 10eme
Tel: 01 40 35 01 45
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://lapinata.fr/

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Written by Sara Rahman  for the HiP Paris Blog. All photos by Julien Hausherr; Contact:[email protected]. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

 

Written By

Sara Rahman

Sara Rahman studied history as an undergraduate at Yale University and contemporary feminism as a graduate fellow at Sciences Po. She spent the past academic year writing a paper on family planning and making friends in Paris. She will be attending law school in the fall of 2011, where she hopes to join a folk singing group, write a book, and learn to be a good student in her spare time. View Website

10 comments on “La Pinata: Pinatas Made By Prisoners Near Paris’ Canal Saint Martin

Excellent writing, made me want to run away to Paris and be a kid again..We want to read more from you miss Sara!

This brought a tear to my eye, and reminded me of a quote: “There’s light, even in the darkest places.”

Merci beaucoup for this post.

Sara and HiP thanks for the wonderful social entrepreneurship story. Full of hope and promise.

thanks for showing this post I really like this.

Excellent post – great shop, and beautiful idea.

So cool! Thanks for this, it made my day!

Thank you, Erica! NYC is falling into fall finally, and the leaves and wool sweaters go perfectly with my law reading, but I’m already looking forward to my next Paris visit. Wow, difficult to grasp that I am now VISITING Paris…!

Thanks for sharing this great shop with us Sara. I can’t wait to check it out. Hope all is well in NYC! – Erica

Hello, tout nouveau look pour le dépôt vente de la rue trousseau in the dans le 11e, j’aurais beaucoup de plaisir à vous rencontrer ! A très bientôt… Yasmine

Elles sont belles ces piñatas! Et une très belle histoire!

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