Despite Blast, Vendors Clamor to Rebuild Fireworks Market

By Elliot Bullman

A dangerous way to make a living, but for some, it is the only option

In the wake of theexplosion that killed 33 people at the San Pablito Tultepec, market,Mexico’s largest fireworks emporium, vendors are already lobbying state officials to rebuild the market.

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Less than a day after the blaze: concerns amongst vendors grew that the government might close the market forever.

Thousands of families in the town depend on the fireworks industry for their living, and Tultepec, on the outskirts of Mexico City, is known throughout Mexico as a premier destination to stock up on pyrotechnic supplies.

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For Ms. Centeno, 67, in her 30 years of selling handcrafted fireworks, she has come to accept the risk as the cost of doing business. To put her two children through college and scratch out a decent life, she acknowledges the danger with a certain air of fatalism, even the loss of life. What neither she nor her fellow vendors can abide is a loss of livelihood.

It is not that I want to sell fireworks, it is the fact it is our only source of employment in this town,” she said, wiping the tears from her eyes.

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During the high season, which runs from August to the end of the year, vendors at San Pablito sell close to 100 tons of fireworks. During those five months they can earn up to 150,000 pesos, or nearly USD $8,000, the equivalent of a full year’s salary for a college-educated employee and more than 17 times the minimum wage.

In an interview with local radio, the general secretary of Mexico State, José Manzur, said the first thing vendors asked him a day after the explosion was when the market would be rebuilt. An estimated 30,000 people in a town of 150,000 made their living from fireworks.

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They “said that this is an activity which is more than 200 years old and they asked for the help of the federal and state government to rebuild the market very soon,” Mr. Manzur said in the interview. “There is great consternation but there is also great hope that the federal and state government support them in this activity, which, yes, is dangerous.”

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