Friday the 5th of March

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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Despite accidents, Mexicans continue to honour saints with fireworks

Teams pushed papier-mache bulls laden with fireworks through the streets of Tultepec, a suburb in the northern outskirts of Mexico City, where much of the population makes pyrotechnics – and the market selling them exploded in a December tragedy that cost 42 lives.

Tultepec residents fashioned the bulls to celebrate the 8th March feast of St John of God, the patron saint of fireworks makers. They also wanted to show off their talents for working with fire: the bulls were ignited after days, lighting up a night sky with fireworks.

“We have to venerate St John of God and pay homage to those that died,” said Jose Guadalupe Gama, 23, who started in the family fireworks trade at the age of eight.

An estimated 30,000 people in Tultepec work full time in the fireworks trade, and local residents say they’re undeterred by the explosion in the local pyrotechnics market, even though it was the third such mishap at the retail site in 12 years.

But the tragedy and subsequent plan to pay homage to the dead with a display of fireworks in the recently concluded national fireworks fair caused uncomfortable questions for some in Mexican society and the Catholic Church about the excessive and often careless use of fireworks during feast days and other celebrations, such as Christmas. Priests could offer few cogent explanations for the excessive use of fireworks other than a fondness for fireworks in all corners of the country.

Picture: Residents of Tultepec, Mexico, push bulls laden with pyrotechnics to celebrate San Juan De Dios, the patron saint of fireworks makers. Tultepec’s fireworks retailing market town exploded on 20th December 2016, killing 42 people. (CNS photo/David Agren).