Thrill of the Thrift – The Adventures of Paola and Pepe

I like to cruise my neighborhood looking for yard sales on the weekends. I don’t ever really have an agenda or a plan, I just hit them drive-by style. I don’t think I was even looking for yard sales the day I stumbled across “Paola” … I saw her from the street propped up on something … it was almost as if she was calling me. I promptly pulled over and approached her curiously. She’s big … and paper mache … and oddly awesome and yet creepy. Some teenager yelled “you can have her”. I was like “I’m not sure I want her”, to which she responded “please take her”. I’m not one to pass up “free” typically, but I had strong mixed emotions about “Paola” coming home with me. Why did she have that huge gash in the back of her head for example?! The girl continued to tell me that her parents acquired her in Mexico years ago and that many people used them to make lamps. “Huh” I thought … all the while thinking I couldn’t imagine illuminating her and therefore emphasizing her creepiness. But, I grabbed her just the same and she road shotgun home in my Jeep.

She sat propped up on my washing machine for a couple days while I figured out where the hell to put her, or otherwise do with her.  But she kept staring at me as I walked thru the laundry room (which is a pass-thru from our kitchen).  She currently resides in the garage where she ended up because, quite frankly, she scares the bejeezus outta me.

Turns out she is a “muñeca de carton” (loosely translated “doll made of rock paper”), but she is most commonly referred to as a “muñeca de puta” (loosely translated “whore” or “prostitute” doll) … awesome … and, they are apparently only available in the springtime – around Easter and date back to the 30’s and 40’s although may date back over 100 years ago and are still made in Mexico even today.  They were popular Easter gifts for girls because they didn’t cost too much and due to their quick wear n’ tear (being made of paper and all) girls received them annually.  “Thanks for the Easter Whore Mom and Dad!”  Although, with all due respect, apparently Americans are the only ones that call them that.

They come in various sizes – “Paola” is gigantic by comparison to some dolls like her.  They are hand painted in what look like one piece bathing suits, and my research tells me they were modeled after female circus trapeze performers.  They are embellished with glittery necklaces and earrings and often times have their names painted on their chests, and their legs and arms are attached with string.

I’m still not sure what to do with her … but who knows … maybe someday she will become a lamp after all.

“Paola” is pictured here with “Pepe” a Mexican Marionette Puppet found at an estate sale … I didn’t even buy him – my friend did – so he was free too.  At some point we had pictured them falling in love and sharing wonderful adventures together…


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