When Mexican families gather on Christmas Eve, the celebration often includes breaking open a piñata filled with candy, small toys and other goodies.
With the recent opening of an authentic Mexican grocery store, Rim country residents can now enjoy this traditional custom.
In fact, it's the colorful piñatas that stand out when you first enter Super Carniceria F-G at 501 W. Main Street. Dozens hang from the ceiling at the rear of one of Main Street's newest business, ranging from Minnie Mouse to action heroes to the more traditional dragons and bulls and burros.
"The piñatas I carry are different from the ones other people sell here," owner Santiago Fajardo said through a translator. "They're bigger and the designs are different."
What makes observing this custom even more fun is that Fajardo also carries the authentic Mexican candies and toys with which to fill your piñata.
"Most of my candy is 100 percent Mexican," he said.
It includes Tamarindo, made from the tamarind tree; Pelon Pelo Rico, a soft candy in a push-up tube, also from tamarind; Aldama, a heavy candy that is "pure caramel;" Coculense, a gum-drop type candy also known as "little drunk ones" because they are lightly bathed in alcohol; and de la Rosa, a tan cake-like peanut confection.
"Most of the candy products are more natural (than U.S. candies)," Fajardo said. "They are manufactured from fruits and nuts and we use pure cane sugar."
Fajardo's piñatas sell for $20-$25, and for an additional $2.75 you can buy a colorfully decorated stick to break them.
Super Carniceria F-G also carries an extensive line of Mexican foods, including pastas, rices, hot sauces, herbs, spices, chile peppers, and soft drinks (in orange and strawberry flavors). What you won't find are a lot of salsas, although he does carry some in cans.
"You can buy salsa in Mexico, but usually we make it fresh as we eat it," Fajardo said. "Most people in Mexico just make it fresh."
Fajardo also carries fresh tortillas, which often sell out early in the day, and fresh Mexican bread and pastries.
"The bread, which is a very traditional Mexican bread called ‘bolillo,' is eaten with just about everything," Fajardo said. "Mexican pastries have a lot less sugar (than doughnuts and other pastries made in the U.S.)."
Speaking of sugar, Fajardo also carries pure cane sugar.
"He has pure cane sugar, and I tell people to come and get it here," next door neighbor Gladys Moreno said. Moreno, who is half Mexican, owns Garden of Eden Reflexology and Skin Care. "It's the best and the best for you; it's not processed."
Another popular item at Super Carniceria F-G is a corn starch used to make a thick, hot drink in the morning.
"We don't even have a word for it in English," Moreno said.
Fajardo also carries fresh Mexican cheese, which sells for $3.99 per pound.
"The flavor is very distinctive," Moreno said. "There is nothing like it in my opinion."
Fajardo also stocks a variety of old Mexican remedies, including Campana, a salve whose primary ingredient is oil of sassafras; a cough medicine made of honey and eucalyptus; and Arnica, a salve for pain that also hastens healing.
"These are the remedies we all grew up with (in Mexico)," Moreno said.
Besides gift items and small toys, Fajardo also carries cake decorations, party favors and Mexican greeting cards.
He also stocks some Mexican cooking utensils, including an authentic tortilla press.
"These are the real kind," Moreno said, picking one up and demonstrating how it works. "These are the heavy ones made of cast iron. The ones you usually see around here are made out of aluminum and that is really not good for you."
Finally, Fajardo rents out chairs and tables for parties and other events.
Within the next few months, Fajardo hopes to add a fresh meat department and a tortilla factory.
He is currently conducting a raffle for several gift baskets filled with Mexican goodies. Patrons get one ticket every time they spend $20 or more at his store. The drawing will be held Dec. 20 at 5 p.m.
Before moving to Payson, Fajardo owned Dulceria Chago's, a Mexican candy, gift and toy shop located at Thomas Road and 33rd Avenue in Phoenix.
Fajardo moved to Payson recently for a variety of reasons.
"I wanted to change my business a little, expand a little," he said. "I fell in love with Payson, the tranquility here, and the people here. I also like the climate a lot."
Asked it there is a market in Payson for this kind of store, Fajardo's firm response was one even this mono-lingual reporter could understand.
"Si," he said.
Super Carniceria F-G is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.