Do the folks back home expect a gift from your trip to San Antonio? How are you going to cram it all into your suitcase? Lucky for you, there are many small gifts that are typical of San Antonio style. All of those listed here can be bought at one of the shops in El Mercado, which is on the route of the Friday friendship walk — but also look for local artisan-made, upscale versions at San Angel Folk Art in Blue Star and other shops around town.
The low cost of tin imported from England and ease of working with it fostered tin plate industries in Mexico. It was considered the “poor man’s silver” due to its shiny surface and resistance to corrosion. Artists started using tin plated sheets to produce not only practical items such as candlesticks and lanterns but also ornaments for humble churches and convents, mimicking the traditional silver that adorned the richest ones. Those same artists began producing more folk-oriented items, some with religious theme and others of a secular nature. Simple tin ornaments cost only a few dollars, are flat, light weight and unbreakable: the perfect travel memento.
Papel picado ( literally “pecked paper”) is a Mexican folk art. The designs are commonly cut from tissue paper using a guide and small chisels, creating as many as forty banners at a time. You’ll see the banners all over San Antonio! For long-term outdoor use there are plastic ones, but the tissue paper versions are more authentic. Expect to pay less than $5.00 for a string of banners.
Lotería is the Spanish word for lottery. The deck is composed of a set of 54 different images, each one in a card. To start the game, the caller (cantor) randomly selects a card from the deck and announces it to the players by its name, sometimes using a riddle instead of reading the card name. The players with a matching pictogram on their board mark it off with a chip or other kind of marker (many Mexican people traditionally use pinto beans.) The first player with four chips in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal row, squared pattern,any other previously specified pattern, or fills the tabla first shouts “¡Lotería!” (Lottery!) or “¡Buenas!” (Good!) and is the winner. An inexpensive set costs about $5.00