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This piñata artist wants to be angry at Donald Trump. He's being proactive instead.

This young artist based in Sin City is using piñatas to make a statement on human rights and racial equality.

Justin Favela is a 30-year-old Latino artist who proudly lives in Las Vegas, a city rich with self-expression and color — much like his art.

Favela is a mixed-media artist, but he mostly makes piñatas. Why piñatas? Growing up, Favela didn't like the forced masculinity that smashing a piñata to bits entailed. So he decided to make them his own way, turning them into the trademark of his artwork. Favela started a six-month artist residency at the Juhl building in September 2016 after the building's owner saw his work in another Nevada art show.

During the early days of the presidential election, Favela gained a little notoriety after creating a piñata bust of President-elect Donald Trump.

Image by Ed Fuentes/PaintThisDesert, featured with permission.


Favela was commissioned by a restaurant run by his cousin in Las Vegas to create a piñata in Trump's likeness shortly after Trump announced his candidacy. It was made for an event where patrons would demolish it with a stick. That is, after all, how piñatas tend to work.

Even so, Favela later felt uncomfortable with the whole thing.

After the president-elect painted all Mexicans with a broad brush as rapists and criminals, Favela and his fellow Latinos got angry. But to him, that still didn't justify creating the likeness of Trump out of tissue paper and glue, only to have it pummeled to pieces by overzealous restaurant patrons.

Favela thought watching the Trump piñata get smashed would feel satisfying for him. But instead, he watched people smash the piñata to bits ... and he started to regret his art project.

Justin Favela working in his Las Vegas studio. Image via Justin Favela, featured with permission.

He says he doesn't like that he spent all that time creating an effigy of a man who, in his opinion, is full of hate. But he also felt conflicted about the violence: By making what he refers to as the "Trumpiñata," was he encouraging Latinos to display precisely the violent behavior they were being accused of?

"I think the whole Trump piñata movement reinforced the stereotype of us being violent people, but on the other hand, it was a way for us to make a political statement," he said.

Favela's conflicted feelings sum up a lot of the current conversation about Trump, especially for minorities.

We're mad that Trump was elected, but we also want to go high when he goes low ... and that's a lot easier said than done. Favela is still trying to make sense of what he's feeling post-election, and that's OK.

Watching Trump win the presidency after hearing him say inflammatory things about minorities is a highly emotional experience.

The artist gave a downtown Las Vegas motel the "piñata treatment." Image by Krystal Ramirez, featured with permission.

But Favela is dealing with this anger and pain in an interesting way: He continuing to create loud, unapologetic work.

"Visibility is everything. I have always made art about my identity as a first-generation Latino in America," Favela says. Now, more than ever before, I think it is important that from now on I make art for myself and for people that look, walk, and talk like me."

Favela told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he's working on a really big piece for a group show at the Denver Art Museum that will feature 13 Latino artists. He's recreating the garden set from the 2002 movie “Frida,” about Mexican painter Frida Kahlo starring Salma Hayek. The piñatas will now be about representation, not destruction.

Favela also co-hosts a twice-monthly podcast, “Latinos Who Lunch,” where he talks about art, pop culture, and identity politics.

Image by Mikayla Whitmore via Justin Favela, featured with permission.

Favela's feelings about Trump aren't black and white. But to me, they are hopeful.

There's fear, frustration, regret. There's a strong desire to keep pushing forward while also wanting to look back and wallow in defeat.

Latinos have the power to help shape this nation and Favela hopes that, as the majority minority in this country, Latinos will work together with other social justice movements. He believes that's the only way to truly take steps forward in the fight for human rights and racial equality.

"I want Latinos to know that we are going to be all right. The struggle is nothing new for us. We got this," Favela says.

In general, I think we can all learn from Favela's outlook: Sure, it's going to take a little time to let our feelings settle. We may need some time to regroup. But then, like Favela, we can use the tools we have to move forward, to fight for equality, and to bring representation to all people, everywhere.

With those tools, and with some piñatas, maybe we can even change the world.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

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