San Patricio knows how to celebrate a saint's birthday.
Carnivals. Bombs. Crowds.
We have been hearing the percussive explosions, rocas (or what I call "bombs"), that thrill young Mexican men. These are not firecrackers. I am talking about explosions that sound as if they could take down a 10-story building.
And they can come at any time of the day or night. 2 AM seems to be just the right time to wake up a patron saint for his birthday.
But those are not the fireworks that draw crowds.
On Tuesday night the local church was decked out as if a space shuttle was to be launched from San Patricio -- for the first of a series of celebratory gatherings.
The "guest of honor" was a 20 to 30 foot structure made of what looked liked bamboo. Looking a bit like an insect sculpture gone bad.
But we were there not to worship form. We wanted function. And we got it.
The structure is called a castillo, and its sole purpose is to act as a framework for fireworks.
Up north, we have a tendency to be awed by fireworks of the rockets' red glare variety. Mexicans appreciate their fire art to be a bit less bombastic and more artistic -- not to mention, up close and personal.
And artistic it was. A series of fire wheels spun furiously in varying colors -- one flew off and lodged itself under a parked pickup's gas tank, threatening a reenactment of shock and awe over Baghdad.
But the finale is always the same. And awe-inspiring in its consistency.
At the very top of the structure is a crown -- corona. When it is lit, it starts spinning until its attains lift-off speed. It then shoots into the air a few hundred meters -- until gravity pulls it back to earth. Or, more accurately, back to the middle of the crowd.
On Tuesday night, it chose to alight in the back of the same pickup that had earlier escape its inferno.
Anyone with a bit of spark in his heart would have enjoyed the night's performance. I stood by a couple who said they had not seen anything like it. They were as enraptured as children.
But, then, so was I.
Give me a carnival and fireworks, and I can be as sentimental as -- well, me, I guess.
New York may think it celebrates Saint Patrick's Day. But they don't know even how to begin celebrate our hometown boy: St. Pat.