“Some of the kids say, ‘I want Mickey Mouse!’” said Sandra Hernandez, who owns the party-supply store Ashley’s Dollar. “And their mom says, ‘No, look, they have Donald Trump. We can hit that one.’”
As Election Day approaches, Donald Trump piñata sales are rising, according to Santa Barbara storeowners. The Milpas Street store is purportedly one of two places in town selling the orange-haired, open-mouthed papier mâché party items. They have become icons in this exceptionally charged presidential election season. The Santa Barbara Independent stopped by the two stores to ask about piñata sales, who is buying them, and what the owners think of the GOP presidential nominee.
“A lot of people, when they see that piñata, they buy that one,” said Hernandez, standing beneath a hanging miniature Trump at the store, which she and her husband have owned for 21 years. She started selling the piñatas, which cost $20, last year. Hundreds have flown off the shelves.
Sales picked up after the Santa Barbara News-Press ran a story about her store with a photo of her flanked by two Trump piñatas. But complaints came in, too, she said.
One person, she recalled, asked, “I don’t know why you don’t go back to your country.” Her son, Alex Hernandez, told the woman that he was born here: “This is my country.”
Another woman asked why she didn’t carry a Hillary Clinton piñata. “And I said because I think only haters buy that piñata, and they don’t make Hillary Clinton piñatas,” she said. “I don’t think … they don’t want to hit her.”
She purchases the piñata at a Los Angeles factory. Lately she has gone every other week, bringing back 25 each time. “[At first] Hispanic people bought more than other people. They hate him,” she said. “Now it’s a lot of different. A lot of gringos buy that one.”
At Party Time Supplies on De la Vina Street, however, 90 percent of the customers who buy Trump piñata are white, said Demetrio Mendoza, who owns the store with his sister. Mendoza, who immigrated to the United States at age 15, was initially apprehensive about carrying the Trump piñatas, which he sells for $38.
“We don’t do anything to make people feel bad,” he said. “Obviously we try to have whatever people are asking for. People were looking a lot for Donald Trump.”
In May, when Trump essentially clinched the GOP nomination, Mendoza tried to place an order with his usual place in the Piñata District in South L.A. But they didn’t carry them. “The place where we get them, I think they had this argument, too. They were unsure how people would respond to having Donald Trump piñatas. It is kind of a delicate thing.”
Ultimately they decided to make them, and Mendoza drove down to pick up 15 one Saturday morning. He sold all of them that weekend.
“I don’t hate Donald Trump,” Mendoza emphasized. “It’s a political thing. We are business people. We are neutral.”
Given Trump’s bigoted language toward Mexican immigrants, Mendoza thought Latinos would be his first Trump piñata customers. “But it was American people,” he said. “That’s the funny thing. We thought, ‘Really? We were wrong?’”
As a kid in Guerrero, Mexico, Mendoza grew up whacking piñatas that were made of old ceramic bowls wrapped in colorful paper, he said. There were tangerines and oranges in them — not candy. He has noticed a similar health trend today — many people stuff them with power bars or Goldfish crackers.
As for his thoughts on Trump’s racist rhetoric, Mendoza said, “It hurts, because it is your people, your Mexican family. But on the other side, if we want to be better as a Mexican community, sometimes you need to talk with strong words. The way [Trump] talked is not the way to do it. But it also is a huge punch for the Mexican community. You don’t want them to talk to you like that? Don’t do stupid things. Don’t be criminal,” he said. “It hurts.”
Hernandez was similarly hesitant to talk politics and declined to disclose whom she is voting for. Whatever sells, she said, she carries.