yesterday evening, more booms echoed through our little valley of a neighborhood, courtesy of some celebratory fireworks set off nearby. a birthday, a baptism or simply a big party--it's not difficult to find a reason for filling the air with sound and sparkle here, and it's equally easy to get ahold of the fireworks for any type of fiesta.
coming from a country where stands sprout up in late june and vanish after july fifth, sparking firework fantasies of children and the children at heart, i had a fixed idea that summer was the only season to light black cats and bottle rockets. new year's eve only meant televised pyrotechnics to me. and much like i assumed, when i was six, that santa delivered presents to believing and expectant kids all over the world, i never really questioned my idea that fireworks were globally known for new year and independence days, with a handful of other holidays thrown in for good measure. having lived here for just a short time, i have seen the light.
actually, i began to get an inkling of this new world of fireworks before i even left new york. throwing around wedding ideas, patricio piped up his wish for a mid-party pyrotechnic show. i laughed, then stopped, because i realized he was serious and that he didn't seem to think it was anything too over the top or difficult to pull off. so i began to catch the firework fever, too, eagerly supporting patricio's request to the reception hall director that we have a good show of spark and flame.
a week after arriving at the airport with suitcases full of clothes and a happy, if somewhat jittery heart, mexico celebrated its independence. patricio and i walked toward the plaza in tlalnepantla that evening of the fifteenth, our faces turned skyward toward the enormous shower of crackling color. it was the first of many nighttime celebrations i've seen from plazas, gardens or my own front yard. it was also the beginning of countless boom times; that is, mornings, afternoons or evenings when firework sounds carry across town to our house, making me imagine political events or festive weddings.
and i'm fully convinced, now, on the wonders of weddings with fireworks. despite our requests, patricio and i still did not know exactly what to expect, but that only added to our wide-eyed excitement after the first of many fuses were lit. i was even christened "alicia," through the funny baptism of fire that was our flaming tower, or castillo, at the beginning of the show. had it been the only thing, i would have been happy enough. but as the sparks slowed, the pyrotechnist bowed his head, made the sign of the cross, and stepped up to a row of cylinders with the power of flame. what followed was like nothing i'd ever seen, a forgotten fantasy of fourth of july fireworks from which i didn't have to guard my distance. sparks rained out above our heads, so close that i couldn't help but shriek with one part fear and five parts fascination. it was magical. it was the beauty of fire codes that either don't exist or are never, ever heeded.
how is all this personalized pyrotechnic fun possible? with firework fabricators in our own back yard. the town of tultepec--a stone's throw from tepotzotlan on the outermost limits of metropolitan area--is to fireworks what hollywood is to the rich and famous. between 60 and 80% of its residents are involved, directly or otherwise, in the production and sale of pyrotechnics. it's a trade passed down for more than 200 years of generations, so not only can we boast that our wedding fireworks were beautiful, we can say with snooty delight that they were also artisanal.
such a specialty certainly comes with a slough of potential setbacks. in the realm of economics, it is now more difficult for the artisans to profit from their work, given the introduction of cheap chinese fireworks smuggled into the market. competing with prices is a frustrating problem, but the issue i'm sure comes to your mind first is one that is perfectly valid: safety. though a number of home workshops are used for making harmless elements like paper and cardboard tubes, there still exist a few where chemicals and combustibles are managed. the official space requirements for workshops are quite large, making it difficult for many to afford the land and the materials to build a regulation business. accidents certainly do happen: this past independence day was marked by an explosion near a plot of land that patricio's parents own. we all take certain risks when we work, though, and this field just happens to carry a lot more of them.
this time of year, risk and reward court each other in more than one way. the firework festival of tultepec ends this weekend, culminating with a competition between the castillo builders. but the most mind-boggling event, i imagine, must be the parade of bulls. since i have only seen either via videos (though that will soon change on saturday), i'll let a couple of them do the work of welcoming you into the wildness. "dancing with bulls, extreme fireworks," and "tultepec: land of fireworks" take a while to load up, but they are more than worth the wait. click here for the site where both videos are located. you have my full encouragement to pretend its your own party while watching them.