Papel Picado & Papel Cortado

Making papel picado

Middle school lesson

Papel picado (pierced paper) and papel cortado (cut paper) are forms of Mexican folk art with origins dating back to the Aztecs. The Aztecs made a coarse paper out of mulberry and fig tree bark and pulp called amatl. Today papel picado is made by cutting and stacking tissue paper and using a chisel to cut the intricate design.

Papel cortado can be made by folding tissue paper and cutting out shapes with scissors. Unfolding reveals the delicate symmetry. Gluing the pieces to a string allows them to be hung up for decorations.

Traditionally, children and their families decorated the streets and their houses for special holidays or festivals with banderitas. These designs are also used to decorate altars.

Magic Windows/Ventanas Magicas by by Carmen Lomas Garza
Making Magic Windows by Carmen Lomas Garza

Mexican Papercutting by Kathleen Trenchard
Papel Picado/Punched Paper by Dani Sneed & Josie Fonseca