Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fireworks, Burning Castles, and Candy

This week is the celebration of Corpus Cristi, and though no one actually knows why they celebrate, they know how to celebrate. All week long you can walk by the cathedral in the center of the city for the big celebrations. It kind of reminds me of a county fair but without the games run by the sketchy carnies. Instead, however, are the castillos, or castles that are lit on fire and then explode.

A castillo is a large construction that kind of looks like scaffolding, loaded up with pyrotechnics that go off in a domino effect. Once the first part has exploded and the fireworks have burnt out on the bottom section, they ignite the next section. This continues until the entire piece is destroyed, though it usually burns away an outer layer to show some kind of design. This week they're all showing giant crosses at the end of the show.

They set off at least two of these big boys a night, and the ironic thing is how little security or safety is involved. The castillos are placed in the middle of narrow streets packed with people who get right up close to them. And because it's in the city center, the fireworks explode all over other buildings, which could in theory ignite, or they fall to the ground on top of the spectators. Once the fireworks are burnt out, the smoke blows down the street right in the faces of all of the viewers, choking them and forcing them to cover their faces. This is a repeated process that happens every night for a week, every year. And so far they haven't figured out yet that this is bad.

Aside from the fireworks, they also send off little candles powered by hot air, which float into the sky. It's interesting to watch the line of fire slowly drift away into the night sky, like stars that continue to go light years away from you. And on the street itself is all of the food. Of course there's the tantalizing street meat, with the raw meat always next to the cooked meat. Play the odds on that one. You might get a good meal, or you might get sick.

All along the streets by the cathedral are candy stands with every kind of sweet you could think of, and then some. The price is right--you can get a bag of sweets for something like 25 cents, but eat enough of them and you won't want anymore. There's also cookies and some of the worst donuts ever baked. They're essentially just dry bread with hard frosting on top. It seems like the whole city comes out for this, and every other minute you run into someone else you know.

Last night we tried our luck on a game shooting a dart. For 50 cents you'd get two shots from point blank range to try to win a bag of candy or a fake $10 bill. How hard could that be? Turns out it was the most crooked game in town. Aiming directly at you wanted and then pulling the trigger proved that the dart would fall feet below the projected target. On the second shot, aiming much higher and adjusting for the terrible rifle, the dart still fell way too far off. It was more crooked than any game I've ever seen at any carnival. But there's literally no one to complain about it, and since people start leaving after the fireworks end, we decided to call it a night. Most likely, we'll wind up doing the same thing tonight, though of course without the rifle game.

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