It’s awfully quiet for a Saturday in Mexico; especially on the eve of a fiesta. None of the 3 cathedrals that flank my house blasted me out of bed with fireworks this morning. It used to scare the crap out of me especially when they launch from the Parroquia De Guadalupe; the cathedral just 2 blocks over to the northwest. Imagine 5:30 in the morning, white flashes of light register on the inside of your closed eyelids just before the sound as the first rockets explode a mere 100 feet out from your bed. My still unconscious mind would launch my body upwards in a Wiley E. Coyote like motion and I’d be a foot off the bed, positively horizontal just as I became instantly wide awake. But still, after a year of it and as hard to believe as it might sound, I am finally getting used to it. Not sleeping through it mind you but not involuntarily levitated either.

Thankfully the 3 churches typically rotate the fireworks depending on which fiesta is starting up although sometimes they all shoot off barrages, continually and for days on end. After a year of relentless assaults I have to wonder how they pay for all those rockets. It can’t be cheap because some of those things are packing a big payload. But somehow they get funded; fireworks are after all a national obsession.

Five months ago in a small state near Mexico City there was a major accident when a heaven bound rocket was redirected earthward after slamming off a power line, returning like a boomerang from where it had departed only 2 seconds before, touching off an entire huge truckload of ordinance. The resulting explosions killing something like 14 people.

It didn’t take that big of a lesson to make me gave up my love affair with fireworks and explosive devices at the age of 13. I was in the process of launching a handmade skyrocket only to have it prematurely explode in my left hand. The resulting fire melted my protective gear (a ski glove) and gave me a painful reminder to stay the hell away from fireworks in the future.

I certainly know that I am a lot closer to exploding stuff than I’d like to be but what to do? Depending on wind direction I occasionally find burnt paper and spent rocket remnants on my 3rd floor terrace. I once found a two foot long half burned up rocket that had crash landed on top of the laundry room. It didn’t look dangerous and there was something so whimsically ‘Lost in Space’ about how it looked all pathetically snow-plowed into the fiberglass shed roof that I just left it there.

The local mother of all festivals – the Santo Santiago – kicks off on the 17th of July and runs until August 4th. In the past week since I’ve been back I have been told at least a dozen times about what a wild fun exciting time it is. And I got to say, if the locals say it’s loud and crazy then I can’t even begin to imagine the size of the madness. I thankfully missed the fiesta last year by a week but I was here for Christmas and New Years fiestas. And I was also here for the month long one in March when they had another saint fiesta. Mexico does not merely observe a holiday; they celebrate it, loudly.

And the fiestas go on forever. Christmas lasts 2 months. I am not kidding. The Christmas season starts promptly at 6 am with fireworks and a parade on December 1st beginning the 12 Days of Christmas observance and lasts until February 6th when they finally take down the nativity scene in the plaza. Until that time there is a parade just about every single day or night. I say – or night – because some of the activities don’t even start until 11 pm. I am not kidding; there are night parades here. You might try to take some of the sting out that by euphemistically referring to them as processions but if there are musical instruments or even recorded loud music playing then as far as I am concerned they’re parades.

I am in bed by that time so I have no idea really what exactly is going on but I do know – from the noise – that on both New Year’s and Christmas Eves there are people, lots of people, out on the streets until dawn.

The Santo Santiago fiesta is 20 days of madness (or so I am told) where the people commemorate their town’s patron saint, Santiago. The peak of the festival is on the 25th when a huge parade of giant masked men winds through the city before ascending to the Parroquia De Guadalupe, the cathedral just above me. Hundreds if not thousands of people will be passing by as they follow the parade. I am told that people on my street sit out in chairs and some manage tables to pass out snacks and refreshments to those walking in the parade. The carpenter down the street tells me that it is customary for someone living on the street like myself to be passing out shots of tequila and beers to all those thirsty amigos; because parading in giant masks is obviously thirsty work.

In spite of all the noise I have to say that this is a great town. It is probably the noisiest place I’ve ever been which is a highly dubious achievement given how loud the rest of Mexico and Latin America can be.

Octavio Paz in one of his famous essays from ‘The Labyrinth of Solitude’ called ‘The Day of  the Dead’ – the most famous of all the Mexican fiestas – says ‘Fiestas are our only luxury’…’During these days the silent Mexican whistles, shouts, sings, shoots off fireworks, discharges his pistol into the air’…’This is the night when friends who have not exchanged more than the prescribed courtesies for months get drunk together, trade confidences, weep over the same troubles, discover that they are brothers, and sometimes to prove it, kill each other’.

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