after a leisurely saturday of sleeping in and drinking fruit smoothies, patricio and i met up with his youngest brother and sister-in-law for the drive out to tultepec. it was the first time any of us would see the fireworks tower, or castillo, competition that showcases the best and most imaginative of pyrotechnic prowess in the country. parking our car in one of the many makeshift parking lots set up on main street, we then joined the crowds making their way to the enormous football field and fairgrounds where the show would soon begin. on the way, daniel shared a technical tidbit with us that he'd heard through the pyrotechnical grapevine: those who roll explosive powder into its paper tubes work with a mouth constantly full of water, ready to spit in an instant should the friction of paper on powder reach a tipping point. the trade of making fireworks is also a constant source of friction between the people and the powers that be, but a campaign banner hanging prominently in town proclaimed that the candidate's "priority is pyrotechnia." he didn't win the election yesterday, but i imagine he spoke for the interests, or at least the opportunism, of the others running for office as well.
we claimed our space with a direct view of a four- or five-story high triple-towered construction with few trees blocking the line of sight. waiting was far from boring, as a local band played behind us and a constant stream of vendors made their way past us, calling out "candied apples, pistachios, cotton candy, cigarettes," and a seemingly limitless inventory of sweets and fiber optic novelties. the call of the cotton candy was too much to resist; we gave ourselves a sugar high to boost our already mounting excitement.
what came next was two hours of incredible. thousands of "oohs" and "aahs" and shouts of "oh, dios!" provided a syncopated harmony to the shrieking melody and percussive rhythm of the biggest fireworks show of my life. spinning wheels, sparking slogans, rocketing crowns and impeccably-designed images lit up the faces of those who came for big entertainment. i, for one, was not disappointed.
you can view images of the event in the new photo album in the right-hand column, entitled "tultepec pyrotechnics." short video clips of a few sparkling moments can also be seen by clicking here, here, here, here, and especially here.
speaking of sparks, a few more flew in tlalnepantla yesterday afternoon at the knife sharpener's workshop. surrounded by butcher shops with strong-armed men parceling up the result of saturday's big pig slaughter, the workshop was a small cube-shaped country of its own, its varied geography of steel and wheel forming a formidable terrain for even the bluntest of blades. we readily handed over our knives.
leaving with blades fit to slice our evening mangoes with ease, i was glad for the chance to watch the sharpener at work; angling the knives on three different stones, round and rectangular, giving them their final touch with quick swipes and a sharp eye.
better than that, though, was having the chance to exchange greetings and a few words with the sharpener's wife and mother-in-law, camped out on our side of the counter. the latter was seated on a stool, her long, graying hair being woven into braids by her daughter. watching both husband and wife working with their hands, making things both sharp and soft, sharing company and occasional conversation, seemed to be worth a lot more than the fifteen pesos we paid.