Photography by Amani Sodiq.

“I never considered myself an artist,” says Alfonso Hernandez, in front of a massive, beautiful landscape painting that he made on a whim. Around it are pops of yellow and red from the most elaborately-made piñatas you’ve ever seen. He sits among them inside his Mesquite art studio because, well, everyone else considers him an artist.

The East Dallas resident is flanked by a larger-than-life-sized Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas. A few feet to the left is a muscle-bound Kobe Bryant holding a basketball with both hands.

You’ve likely never seen piñatas like Hernandez’s before, and until 2016, he hadn’t either.

He was attending a birthday party for his nephew, and his family planned to spend $100 for a nice piñata from Mexico.

“Man, $100,” he remembers thinking. “I was out of a job so hey, I’ll give it a shot.”

The soon to be 7-year-old requested Captain America, and all Hernandez had to do was cross reference an image on Google with his paper mache and painting supplies.

“Within the first two hours of me starting to build it, I was like man, this is easy,” he says. “I’d built the structure of the body in like an hour and it already looked 100 times better than anything.”

Then he churned out Batman, Spider-Man, Bowser and a Ninja Turtle in one session.

Hernandez, 41, had always been looking for his niche. Before making piñatas, he had corporate jobs at Service King and different IT companies. He was prone to climbing the ladder, and fast, but those jobs were never his own. Before Captain America’s candy insides hit the pavement, Hernandez knew he had something.

“For five years straight, I woke up and made piñatas till two or three o’clock in the morning,” he says. “Seven days a week for five straight years. I missed birthday parties. I missed funerals. I missed a lot of things.”

During that imperial phase, you couldn’t find Hernandez but you couldn’t escape his work. He marketed himself as the Piñata Man on Facebook, taking commissions for parties all over Dallas. In 2021, the State Fair of Texas gave him his own indoor exhibition.

“People would buy their piñatas and toss them in the corner,” he says, speaking of the piñatas that people were used to. “They’ll have their birthday setup but the piñata would be hiding somewhere.”

The traditional piñata didn’t have enough detail for Hernandez. He opted to paint the base by hand which would free him to create any kind of design or character. His piñatas are big; they’re detailed. You can’t take your eyes off them.

“The piñata became the centerpiece.”

No matter how far Hernandez pushes the envelope, he still honors the medium.

It’s still a piñata, it must be broken.



“I really do push for that,” he says. “The time that you spend breaking it with your family members or with your friends, that’s a memory. That’s an important memory, and a fun memory.”

No matter the number of hours, or the money spent to purchase it, all of his work winds up the same way— battered into a million pieces as children wrestle over the insides. 

He’s forged a permanent career out of temporary objects, and that juxtaposition isn’t lost on him.

“Everything that I’ve made has been pressured,” he says. “There’s deadlines. There’s money involved. I’ve never had time to actually make something that I like.”

He recently launched his website and plans to host workshops at his studio. Hernandez says that he still hasn’t made his masterpiece, but it’s clear that doing so is in the forefront.

“The only way I’m going to achieve that is if I can get a gallery,” he says.

A gallery of piñatas — one without bats swinging or screaming, clamoring children.

“I got stuck on trying to prove myself or prove my art,” he says. “I’ve mastered the craft.”