Home Entertainment Lincoln Elementary School third-graders make piñatas for premiere of “Calabasas Street”

Lincoln Elementary School third-graders make piñatas for premiere of “Calabasas Street”


All members of the cast of the new production “Calabasas Street,” Children’s Theater of Madison’s first-ever play at the Starlight Theater of the new MYArts Center, are Latinx. The play, which premieres this Saturday and runs until March 27, will feature props – mini-piñatas – made by third-graders at Madison Lincoln Elementary School.

“I used to go to Lincoln. It’s is a traditional southside elementary school with a large Latino population so that’s what drove me to want to gift them this opportunity to experience of what it means to make a piñata,” Araceli Esparza, the founder of Midwest Mujeres, tells Madison365. “For a lot of these students, it was the first time … they’ve never made a piñata before.”

Esparza suggested Lincoln school when Children’s Theater of Madison asked Midwest Mujeres to help them connect with local schools and the Latino community. Esparza couldn’t think of a better place than her alma mater, located in the heart of South Madison. Esparza and Maestra Erika Castillo helped the students in four classrooms make 83 mini-piñatas as they gave workshops to help students learn about Latinx culture and the Spanish language.

Araceli Esparza and Erika Castillo at Lincoln Elementary School

“As they made the piñatas, Erika and I were not only teaching them Spanish traditions of making the piñata but also various words in Spanish of things that are used to make the piñata,” Esparza recalls. “One of the kids made a taco piñata and we talked about all of the things that we like in our tacos and helped them translate the different words.”

“I fully enjoy making and creating art in piñatas, decorations for parties, chocolate, and everything that my mind and my patience allow,” adds Castillo, who worked for 10 years as a teacher in Mexico, including three years as a teacher of children from the Mennonite culture. “I have always been self-taught with everything that involves art. We ourselves put the limit to our imagination. I greatly appreciate the opportunity of Children Theater of Madison, because they have allowed me to relive my experience and know that there are many people who are willing to bring good projects to the entire community.”

Maestra Erika Castillo teaching how to make the piñatas coverings

 Midwest Mujeres, a Latina-led network of high-impact women who connect women to opportunities that will grow their income and professional experience, has been focusing on targeted volunteerism in the community and have been involved in numerous volunteer projects around town.

Children’s Theater of Madison is hosting Calabasas Street, opening this Saturday, a story in English and Spanish of unlikely friends, second chances and the transformative power of art. It is directed by Roseann Sheridan.

“It’s a real coming of age Chicano story based on our cultural reverence to our elders,” Esparza says. “I love it. It starts on Saturday. It’s coming up quickly and we are really excited about this.

“This is such a special opportunity with CTM having the first show of My Arts Center being a bilingual show … that shows a real shift in our community towards inclusivity in the arts,” Esparza adds. “Of course, we have a long way to go, but this is just great. The kids are all bilingual, the staff is all bilingual and Latino. The associate director [Simonita Perales Simkins] is Latina.

Between 10-20 of the piñatas made by the young people will be on display at the Calabasas Street production. The rest of them the kids took home to their families.

“The kids learned a lot about piñatas while they were making them. I learned a lot about piñatas. I didn’t know that they came from China until Maestra Erika said it,” Esparza says. “She talked about how piñatas were incorporated from China through the Spanish Inquisition and then we made them part of our holidays. Not necessarily for birthdays, either. That was an Americanized thing. Having them for our birthdays was a Chicano thing now. Traditionally, they were used during the holidays.”

A third-grader at Lincoln Elementary glues the paper mache to the piñatas,

Esparza adds that it was exciting “to see the kids be able to do something like this with their hands and use their hand-eye coordination.”

“Given this long pandemic, we haven’t really been doing – in Spanish, we call them manualidades – these crafts … because of the virtual schooling,” she says. “We had to teach them a little bit about the ways of the artist – take your time, it’s OK if you make mistakes, it doesn’t have to be completely perfect, etc.

“Manualidades comes from manos – hands. Hand-crafted. I think a lot of times these days we aren’t teaching our kids handcrafts anymore, and that’s a shame. Because they love it so much,” she adds.


Calabasas Street play will be on stage from Saturday, March 12 until Sunday, March 27.  You can get a 30% discount using the code “Domingo” at check out. Visit ctmtheater.org to see the schedule and purchase your tickets.