March 9, Mexico’s National Pyrotechnic Festival. Explosive festival with charging, blazing bulls and exploding castles

Burning Man has nothing on the National Pyrotechnic Festival’s charging toritos and exploding castillos.

This week of sheer unbridled madness began in the mid-19th century as a celebration in honor of John of God.

John of God is the patron saint of hospitals, the sick, nurses, firefighters, alcoholics, and booksellers.

All of these would suit the National Pyrotechnic Festival – except the bookseller!

Fireworks are the heart and soul of Tultepec.  It’s been involved with explosives since colonial gunpowder.

For the Castillo competition, pyrotechnicians ignite fireworks towers up to 30m high.

In “Castillos” (castles) contests, people work for weeks to build huge structures with reed and paper – and then explode them for thirty minutes.

As they burn, they often reveal a story – usually series of symbols of religious content (stars, fish, hearts, flowers).


The papier-mâché bulls at the parade of the toritos are stuffed with up to 4,000 fireworks.

For the “Pamplonas” (Running of the Bulls) imagine about 250 moving bull-shaped wooden frames each with up to 4,000 fireworks, running the streets trailing explosions.

This goes on for seven hours!


The papier-mâché bulls at the parade of the toritos are stuffed with up to 4,000 fireworks


Blaze of glory: each team in the parade is whipped by the crowd as they go



Amazing Thomas Prior photographs show that while the Pyrotechnic Festival looks as dangerous as it sounds, it’s a mind-blowing experience.




For more on the National Pyrotechnic Festival, check out “Brimstone and Glory“, a documentary about the ecstatic ritual, danger and beauty of fireworks.


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