Toy maker

From San Antonio la Isla

San Antonio la Isla is a small town in Estado de México, one hour away from Mexico City where different types of wooden toys are produced.

Why did I end here? A few years ago my father gave me a balero, a wooden toy composed by three basic elements: a wooden handle, a wooden barrel and a cotton rope that links them both. The idea is to throw the barrel and stick into the wooden handle. There are various tricks and different difficult movements to try.

At the beginning I found the appearance of this traditional toy not attractive and I didn’t even try to play it. I found it excessively decorated, old fashion and as a representation of what a Mexican handcrafted cliché object should looks like. For me it was more like a decorative Mexican object than a toy itself.

After a few months I gave it a try and I realized that actually is really fun to play with it. Then, why not make it looks more as a toy in order to attract people to play with it? In the end it is a wooden toy.

That is why I decided to come to San Antonio la Isla, where the baleros are produced.

In San Antonio la Isla I met Mario, he has been producing wooden toys since he was young. His father thought him. His skills producing toys are wonderful but not only that, he is also the actual champion of the annual balero competition in his hometown. Mario is a really nice person that accepted to work with me in the task of redesigning the traditional toy.

My first balero.

My first balero.

In the picture below the traditional baleros that are produced today in San Antonio la Isla.

In the picture below the traditional baleros that are produced today in San Antonio la Isla.


The redesign of the balero consisted in eliminating the excessive decorations, simplifying the form and selecting colors that resemble contemporary toys. The main reason for removing the decorations is to reduce the time of production. If craftsmen can reduce the time for producing one balero and still receive the same amount of money than before, then they will have more income.

Diario didn’t have enough fun just with the balero, so we kept working with Mario developing other traditional Mexican toys. We love the yo-yo and the perinola (spinning top) so we decided to redesign them too.


Traditional Mexican Perinola (left) and yoyo (right)

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