The News
The News
Saturday 02 of December 2023

A Dent In The Gun

"Cohetes" at the pyrotechnics market in Zumpango, State of Mexico,photo: Cuartoscuro/Saúl López
Will authorities and fireworks manufacturers learn from this constantly repeating lesson?

Sometimes prestigious newscasts, such as CBS News with Scott Pelley, downsize facts because they doubt the authenticity of blown-up reports.

In regards to the Tultepec explosion last Tuesday, that so far has left 35 dead and over 60 wounded by burns, Pelley on Wednesday’s newscast said that “this is the third explosion in 11 years” at the Tultepec fireworks assembly site and market. In theory it sounds like an exaggeration but in practice Pelley doesn’t have all the facts at hand.

According to the State of Mexico Civil Protection program report, between August 2015 and 2016, 11 explosions were reported in the site out of a total of 22 explosions in other towns where fireworks are assembled.

And yes, there have been three big explosions in the past 11 years with similar results just at Tultepec, which happens to be the largest factory in the State of Mexico, where most of the fireworks are fabricated and sold.

The Civil Protection report says that 105 out of the 125 municipalities that make up the State of Mexico (which surrounds Mexico City) is related to fireworks manufacturing.

“There are currently 57 manufacturers with an average of 1,590 hand craft artists in fabrication centers. The main municipalities are Tultepec, Almoloya de Juárez and Zumpango. There are 42 authorized carriers, 47 warehouses and 763 over-the-counter stores for toys for retail sales.”

It’s funny, and not, that State of Mexico authorities consider fireworks as “toys.” Perhaps that’s what most kids consider them to be, because children and teenagers like playing with fire and most of your firecrackers have colorful presentations and do look like toys.

In theory, it is the Mexican Army who should be supervising the manufacturing of the popular “cohetes,” which besides being one of youths’ favorite entertainments,  are a main staple for Catholic priests, who don noisemakers of thunderous “cohetes,” to attract people to attend mass, along with loudly chiming bells.

By the way, like discovering a freshly found truth, the Civil Protection report warns that “for this activity the raw material is gun powder, which represents a threat given its reactive characteristics.”

In other words, the fireworks trade in Mexico is huge and in theory it is a business that demands high security measures on the part of authorities.

The 240-page long Civil Protection report says that in supervising the fireworks industry “there’s the participation of 19 different (state and federal government offices) institutions such as the state government’s general secretariat, the Army, Navy and Interior as well as the Federal Police.”

The cynical question is who’s in charge of watching?

It is also of particular importance to say that the largest amounts of gun powder are accumulated during the last two weeks of December, and it a fact that the San Pablito market, where the humongous explosion took place, is the nation’s most important sales point for pyrotechnics with average year-end sales of 300 tons of manufactured “non-lethal” explosives.

Of course, “non-lethal” if you light them up one by one as it should be, which was not the case for Tuesday’s explosion, which literally raised the entire block where the San Pablito fireworks market was at.

Definitely the tragedy is not being taken lightly by authorities and the region’s hospital burn victims rooms are overflowing with the 60 wounded. One teenager was even flown to Houston for treatment.

But will authorities and fireworks manufacturers learn from this constantly repeating lesson? The fact is that it’s happened so many times in the past, that one more time is like the Old West gunmen claim: another dent in the gun.

And yes, despite the tragedy, there will be fireworks for sale all over Mexico to celebrate Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas, everyone!