Tultepec, a municipality not far from Mexico City, has long been the capital of the country’s fireworks industry. There are some estimates that peg half the local population draws some kind of livelihood from the firework business. Tultepec produces 50 to 80 percent of all of the country’s fireworks.
Thomas Prior came from New York to witness and partake of this festival. He shot some amazing images of the ensuing merriment the people of Tultepec have with their principal economic driver, the fireworks.
Since 1989, the town has been holding a more than week long fireworks festival every year with contests between different pyrotechnics manufacturers as the main feature. The town likewise honors its patron saint, San Juan de Dios, who happens to be the patron saint of fireworks producers as well as firefighters. Legend has it that San Juan de Dios saved children from a burning building and he miraculously escaped unscathed with no burns. Hence, since 1989, more than 100,000 people converge on Tultepec to celebrate the National Pyrotechnic Festival. It is a fiesta complete with something for all ages, awash with food, music, dancing, and lots of revelry, Mexican style. The centerpiece to these festivities however is the pyrotechnics displays.
With total abandon, people had unrestrained fun with their firecrackers, which would otherwise be thought of as insanely dangerous elsewhere.
One of the many highlights is the “pamplonas,” or the running of the bulls. Locals build paper mache bulls, decorate them ornately and load them up with fireworks. As night falls, the bulls are lit and fireworks burst forth, creating chaotic fun as people jump around playfully avoiding the sparks.
Over 250 “toritos,” or this paper mache bulls contain as much as 4,000 fireworks, which are pushed through the streets. The fireworks take around five or six hours until the bulls get to a large plaza in the town. People at this point are in extremely jovial moods getting really close to the fireworks, flirting with the dangerous but entertaining mayhem.
See how Mexicans like to enjoy their fireworks in photographer Thomas Prior’s website.