These dolls are commonly called “muñecas de carton” in Spanish. The phrase “muñeca de carton” is actually a short form of the phrase “muñeca de cartón de piedra” or “doll made of rock paper”. The phrase papier mâché is of French origin meaning “chewed” or “masticated” paper but it translates into Spanish as “cartón de piedra”.
The hard papier-mâché has its origins in the late colonial to early Independence period, created by poorer families to imitate more expensive porcelain dolls from Spain. In Mexico City, the name Lupita is derived from the diminutive for the popular girls name of Guadalupe. In the past they were sold in Mexico City in places such as the Sonora Market, where other items made of cartonería such as piñatas and Judas figures are still sold. The dolls remained popular until the era of commercial plastic dolls. A number of stories surround the dolls. One of these is that a wife who feels that her husband is cheating on her would buy one of these dolls and write the name of his supposed mistress to let him know that she knew. Another story says that they were used in the past to advertise brothels in Mexico City with each doll representing a prostitute. The dolls in the windows indicated which women were available.