(Don’t forget to check out the videos at the end of the article!)
Perhaps one major thing that Americans and Western Europeans have to adjust to living in Mexico is a very different attitude towards public safety and personal responsibility. The rules and restrictions we are used to in our native countries “for our own protection” are considerably less or non existent here in Mexico, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Ive come to appreciate it, as a matter of fact.
Perhaps one tradition that takes folks back home aback is the fairly lackadaiscal attitude towards fireworks. That’s not to say there are no restrictions, but they are no where near as strict as the U.S.
One major fireworks tradition in the Mexico City metropolitan area is the “torito,” literally “little bull.” This is a handcrafted figure of a bull made of reeds, cane and with larger versions, a cartoneria (paper mache) skin. A cage of sorts is constructed above the bull figure, which is then loaded with various types of fireworks, including those which simply glow, firecrackers, spinning disks that fly up into the air and one called “buscapies” (feet finder) that is a kind of rocket that shoots along the ground, giving it the name.
Depending on the size of the torito, it will be carried resting on a person’s head, or by a team what will either carry it like it was on a litter or roll it on wheels. The aim of this is to set the fireworks off with torito “running” by and through the crowds.
One major tradition involving these toritos is the Fiestas de Luces y Música (Festival of Lights and Music) held annually in Santiago Zapotitlan, Mexico City. Although part of Mexico City, the community still works to maintain its rural identity, made even harder with the recent opening of Line 12 of the Metro here. The Festival ends with the running of these toritos, first in the daytime, when people can appreciate the work and artistry that individuals and teams put into making their bulls, whether they are small ones for child’s head or monsters over to meters high and four meters long. Even without the fireworks, the large toritos menace the crowd, pushed into them to disperse. Ill admit I liked this as it made getting photos easier.
There were twelve large bulls in the 2016 version, ranging from a white bull covered with harmless looking colorful crepe paper to a behemoth involking Ironman. All the work put into these creatures would soon be destroyed.
Although we had been warned that “everyone gets burned” as this event, nothing prepares you for the first experience. For photography’s sake, we asked a local business owner for access to his roof, which he kindly granted. Turned out to be the safest place, but not entirely safe, as I was hit twice by flying rockets, despite a wall coming up to my chest. Those in the main plaza and nearby streets, mostly young men, were showered with sparks and pummeled with rockets, smoke and debris.
I have to admit, it was quite the adreneline rush.
All photos and video by Alejandro Linares Garcia and Leigh Thelmadatter