If you're Heading west on Fullerton from Logan Square to Hermosa, it's impossible to miss Dulcelandia. Its otherwise dreary facade—wedged among lots of other dreary facades—is lit by an enormous, rainbow-colored neon sign. The fluorescent glow from inside backlights rows and rows of roughly three-feet-tall papier-mache humanoids: from an orange-haired mermaid that resembles a certain Disney character to masked lucha libre-style wrestlers to a caped guy whose likeness is similar to that of Superman.
And each will eventually be beaten to a pulp with a stick.
"It is handcrafted, artisan work," says Eduardo Rodriguez Jr. in discussing the pinatas Dulcelandia imports from Mexico. "They're works of art."
Rodriguez runs the Chicago-based company—which has five locations in the city and surrounding suburbs—with his twin brother, Julio. His parents, immigrants from Mexico, opened the first Dulcelandia in the mid-90s, and Eduardo has been handling the importing since the early 2000s.
He's visited some of the areas where the pinatas are created, small mountain villages with no cell reception or indoor plumbing. And though crafters are essentially creating something to be battered to death by a sugar-loaded birthday boy or girl, they take pride in their work. Dulcelandia's other main import is, as the name indicates, candy—specifically varieties popular in Mexico. Rodriguez says they do get a decent amount of crossover business ("a lot of non-Hispanics come in for our chile candy"), but the store has a emotional impact on Mexican expats. "People reminisce about the old country and we're bringing them back to their youth," he says.
At the moment, the Rodriguez brothers are working on expanding the store's Little Village location so instead of just selling party supplies, it can actually accommodate parties. Have someone else clean up the sad remains of your annihilated Disney character.