The National Pyrotechnic Festival is an annual event to promote the country’s tradition of production and use of fireworks. It began as celebration in honor of John of God, the patron saint of fireworks makers, in the municipality of *Tultepec (map), which produces about three quarters of all Mexico’s fireworks.
The main event, a parade of “toritos” or bull-shaped frames with fireworks on them, began in the mid 19th century. The modern national festival began in 1989 and includes various events including fireworks competitions, but the main event remains that of the toritos.
The National Pyrotechnic Festival lasts for seven days and attracts more than 100,000 visitors.
There are three main events along with amusement rides, concerts, dance, release of sky lanterns and regional food. These events are split between the town center of Tultepec and the fairgrounds in the San Antonio Xahuento neighborhood.
The first of the main events is a contest of “castillos” (castles). Castillos are frames made of wood, reed and paper to which various fireworks are affixed. The fireworks are set off to make images and/or parts of the castillo structure spin and move.
The second, oldest and most important event is the “pamplonada.” Named after the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, these “little bulls” or “toritos” are also fireworks frames. These frames are made from wood, reed, hard paper mache (called cartonería), wire and more and painted bright colors. They can measure anywhere from 50 centimetres (20 in) to over 3 metres (9.8 ft) in height costing between 400 and 20,000 pesos to make.
The making of handcrafted fireworks is part of the identity of the municipality. In the colonial period, the area made gunpowder as the raw materials required for its production were available locally. The making of fireworks began about 150 years ago. Tultepec alone accounts for about almost half of all fireworks production in Mexico.