Thursday, March 11, 2010

blowing its top

San Patricio knows how to celebrate a saint's birthday.

Carnivals. Bombs. Crowds.

And fireworks.

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.


Anonymous said...

The cliche' "We're all Irish on St. Patrick's Day" comes to mind..."Top of the morning to you!" Mary

Unknown said...

I have in my library a marvelous book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, which opened my eyes to the role of Saint Patrick. I will never drink green beer or attend a St Patty's day parade again without remembering this great saint. Author? Thomas Cahill.

Anonymous said...

what a perfect description of the castillo. saw my first in sayulita a few years ago. and when you say up close and personal, i know just what you mean. one of those rockets the kids like to shoot off came right towards steve and almost hit him between the legs-that would have really hurt. do they have the "toros"? i'm amazed more people don't get hurt. unfortunately, a little boy who sat next to me on the bus one day told me he was on his way to the doctor. sadly, he had lost a hand to one of those cohetes. enjoy the rest of the festivities.


Chrissy y Keith said...

I have been waiting for over a year to have you see this and post about it. San Patricio week is awesome. I love the rodeo and watching the drunken men trying to stay mounted on their dancing horses. And all the people dancing in the stands.

Anonymous said...

oooh, the pickup guy was doubly blessed. perhaps it was meatloaf??

Joe S. said...

Alot of gringos in the foreground of the picture, so not everyone has left for the season I guess.

MxSailor said...

I thought they were blowing up our cars to keep us from going home. These things are really LOUD!

1st Mate said...

I forgot it goes on for a whole week! That castillo was one of the high points of our cruise last year, great fun! Thanks for bringing back a wonderful memory.

Steve Cotton said...

Mary -- This is quite the party down here -- and not just for one day.

Laurie -- I read it. You are correct, it is Cahill. I have also read the other books in his hinges of civilization series. My favorite was the one about Jesus.

Teresa -- I will have more in another post.

Chrissy -- I was afraid I was going to miss it. I need to be in Puerto Vallarta on Wednesday and Thursday. But I am getting a full view of what goes on this week. It is great.

Anonymous -- Yup. Two out three ain't bad.

Joe -- the tourists tend to hide in the back. The front line is always Mexican -- and young. And me. Old and stupid. But looking for the adventure -- and the perfect shot.

Mx Sailor -- Are you docked in Barra? I was over there tonight for the circus. Those bombs could make a sailor nervous.

1st Mate -- I have been waiting all year for this. Jiggs loved fireworks. But these would probably have been too much for him.