PUEBLA, Mexico – Rocketeers lit up on Friday the skies of San Cristobal Tepontla, in the San Pedro Cholula municipality of central Mexico’s Puebla state, with the burning of monumental bulls made of cardboard, straw and fireworks – the festival’s main component – which the locals manufacture themselves.
The inhabitants believe San Antonio Abad was the creator of gunpowder, which he used to make several works of art that gave joy to people. For more than 80 years, they have been carrying out this celebratory, adrenalin-filled activity, which is not without its dangers.
The flammable “toritos” (“little bulls”) take about a week to make, starting with the design and then the assembly of the structure to give it the shape of a bull, which can even be dressed up as a superhero, or a “charro” (“horserider”).
This time, rocketeers gave a modern twist to the structures and also created giant figures of a gorilla, a horse and a centaur.
As per tradition, every Jan. 17, the inhabitants of San Cristobal hold a parade with live music and fire rockets until it reaches the esplanade of the church to begin the burning of the 20 “toritos.”
People gather around the fireworks-laden structures and the thrill-seekers among them enter the circle to dance and prance around and perform a mock bullfight with the burning figure.
The organizer of the event, Ignacio Garcia, explained that families who make the fireworks participate in the event every year and pointed out that these figures can weigh up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds) or more and carry at least 5 kg of gunpowder.
One of the pyrotechnicians, Julian – who has been in the business of making fireworks for 40 years – said that it is an honor to work on these monumental crafts for his patron saint, who, he added, always fulfills all wishes made to him with devotion.
Similarly, Francisca Soto shared with EFE that she has been making these figures for 45 years and that they take her a month to create as she always adds an element that differentiates her creations from the rest.
Although the tradition appeared to be in decline in recent years, young people and children nowadays have developed a greater interest in it: they enjoy the spectacle, they want to learn about it and they are making efforts to keep it alive.