Mexico’s Independence Day, September 16th, is celebrated in a big way here. In the past week, WalMart set up their special booth outside the store, selling Independence Day items.
Ajijic’s celebration begins with the Regata de Globos, where local groups gather to launch hand-made tissue-paper balloons, powered by hot air, into the sky. We’re told that this tradition only started about 20 years ago, and every year it gets bigger, with more balloons and more spectators. The Globos event happens on the Saturday before the 16th of September Independence Day festivities. This year it was Saturday, September 12.
The regatta is held at the soccer field on Calle Revolucion, off the road where the Wednesday mercado takes place, near El Torito supermarket.
I arrived when the event was to start, 3 PM. I had been told that things really did not get going until about 5 PM, but wanted to see for myself.
Inside the entry gate (where a donation is requested). Not a big crowd yet.
The stadium seats are already full. People come here about an hour early to get a seat. Others bring their own chairs and sit on the field.
We were told that rain is usual on this day. But today the weather is beautiful for the event.
Vendors are set up selling a variety of things: food and drink, beer, toys for the kids, and in the booth below, Independence Day noisemakers and wigs with Mexican colors.
A globo is being inflated. The first thing I notice is how much this is a group effort. Several people are holding it up as it is inflated. And there are children nearby watching, and helping if they can.
There is a flyer circling over us to get a good look from above. It’s some kind of super-light aircraft.
A green and yellow balloon rises above the trees. The day is getting started.
Here come some “big players’ in the Globo competition, entering the gate. There is some kind of award for the Globo that flies the highest and longest. Neighborhoods get together and construct their globos over the year, and join together on this day to fly them, and to watch and talk to friends.
More globos are carried in. These people really have a lot of them!
They pick a spot and set them down. This is where this team will work today.
Inflating the globo is an involved process. Tall ones have someone holding the top. This is a tall one, so the man holding the top has climbed a ladder.
The globo inflates. Hot air is used to inflate and fly them. You will see some of the power sources later in this post.
A globo rises above the field. This one has an interesting design, with ‘arms’ on all each side and the top.
The globo rises above the nearby hill. How do the judges know how long and how high for those that get over the hills?
Carol and her friend Robyn arrive. They have stopped to talk with one of Robyn’s many friends.
All day long we will see people with cameras pointed into the sky.
Another one is inflated.
And launched into the sky.
These paper and wire balloons, lifted by a flame within them, are fragile and very inflammable. Many burn and fall, rather than fly far above. I am not sure if this flaming remnant pictured below was of the globo above, or another one.
This torch is one the the flame sources that are wired into balloons to create the hot air. You can see the risk to the balloon!
He is using a torch to inflate the balloon. I can see why some never make it off the ground.
It’s getting full of hot air and soon will launch.
It rises, watched by the team and the guy atop the ladder who held it up to inflate. Will it clear the trees? These globos are really dependent on the wind currents.
It gets up in the sky!
Meanwhile another one breaks out in flames. Too bad.
Some people use blow torches to inflate. They bring tanks of gas with them.
This team inflates their green and yellow globo. I think that this is a neighborhood team; they are not wearing matching t-shirts like some of the others.
Another one gets started, white with black dots.
The green and yellow one is almost ready to fly.
And up it goes. I think these is a moment of happiness and relief when the globo gets airborne.
Hey, this white globo is a big six-sided die, with the right number of dots on each side. Do you think they know what a gamble it is that it will actually get up in the air?
Wow! It gets up in the air. I like it.
Up it goes. It is very high now. There is another one in view, too. Below it.
The lady with the pink shirt is holding an aluminum plate with a thick green ring. She is also holding a gas lighter. The ring is soaked with fuel, and will be the power source for the hot air balloon flight to come. At the right moment, this ring will be wired into the globo and lit to provide a hot flame.
Before this one can get up it must be fixed. The woman in the pink shirt noticed a tear. It is being fixed with tape, so they can launch.
Looks like it worked. It is launched OK.
As it goes over us we can see that the ring burner, attached to the central wire, different from the fire used in other globos that use a flaming torch. I think this kind is used to reduce the risk of burnup in the air.
It is going, but not rising much. Maybe the air leak was not fixed after all?
It is coming back to ground. Its crew has chased it across the soccer field and is waiting for it to land.
The man who released it in the first place catches it, and pushes it into the air again. The woman in the blue hat is getting a great photo of the action.
It barely gets over the trees, then starts to sink into them. I don’t think this one is a prize winner. We also wondered about the odds of setting fire to the trees. No one seemed to be worried about that, though. Apparently there is a team of bomberos, firemen, on call.
These metal contraptions are the rings that hold the bottom open and wires that are used to hold whatever kind of torch they will use to power it.
This was the biggest team here today. Their shirt logo says, “Barrio Explosivo.”
What a fancy globo they have! There sections of different colors, and pointy sides all around.
They are careful with it while it inflates.
This is a spot where six different pieces of material join. We were told that the globos are made of paper, but we felt a couple of them and some felt like plastic. I think this is plastic, not paper. Can you see the thick layers of tape where they all join?
It is almost up.
The final push.
The flight was so short that we missed it. All we could shoot was a burning mass on the ground. Que lastima!
The last remains. It was such a good globo! How many hours of design and construction? And the effort to launch it. All to end up as a burning pile on the ground.
Beautiful globo with a cloud behind it.
Another one is being readied. Looks like a neighborhood balloon, with many kids around watching and helping.
It gets up, trailing streamers.
It is short-lived though. It crashes, aflame, into nearby trees.
A new star rises.
Only to come to an untimely end. When you see black smoke like this, then flames will follow shortly.
Notice the thick white ring in the center? This is the fuel for the torch to power it, as we saw with the lady holding the green above.
They fill it with hot air from a blow torch.
Almost full. It is a wonderful one! It is done by Los Paratas.
Ready for the release.
And up we go, a successful launch.
A big globo is being filled by the Naranja Mechanica team.
Working it it.
Are you nervous that he is lighting his torch right by the gas tank and line? We were! There seems to be some danger around this event. Because of this, I don’t think it could happen in the USA.
A young girl runs freely through the crowd. I love all the people, different ages, Gringos and Mexicans, all mixing and having a good time today. What a great event for the people.
Meanwhile, back with the Naranja Mechanica crew. They are still filling their big balloon with hot air from a blow torch.
Almost full now.
The last moments before it goes into flight.
Hey, it trails a banner. I can read, “Grupo Medical …”
It makes it high in the air. Notice the small dot to its right? Another one is high above it.
A boy holding his mom’s hand looks up, entranced.
What a design! It almost looks like origami.
One that reminds me of an old fashioned piecework quilt rises near us.
It goes right over our heads.
It is like a giant rectangular pillow.
Just watch the boy in the red shirt for the next few photos.
He is in the middle of everything, helping. I like the father and son, to his left. Seems like caring in action.
They tape the metal ring that we saw above onto the balloon’s mouth.
Our boy holds one side.
They are laying it out to fill it. Our boy is watching attentively.
Here is another one. This is from the Lakeside Presbyterian Church.
It made it up in the air.
But we can see bad signs and smoke.
This is how it all ends. Look out below! On the ground, waiting will be a bunch of kids, waiting to stomp out the flames. There is an extra thrill at this event knowing that a flaming object could land on you. The iPad gets a good shot, too.
Two fly by overhead.
Another one flames up after it takes off. Ones that have a long shape seem to be at risk for burning up. I think the wind tips them on their side and when this happens, they ignite themselves.
This crew has a long line of globos laid out to get in the air before they day is through. I see the boy in the red shirt standing near the front.
Another with a banner. I guess companies sometimes sponsor a globo and use it as advertising space.
A big red one gets started. Again I wonder if ones like this aren’t made from plastic, not paper.
It is an angry ghost from Pac-Man. And it is plastic, I can tell from the wrinkles. They hold up the arms, trying to get them inflated too.
Its up! I can see a bottle of water hanging from it, ballast, I guess, to help keep it upright. And help keep it from burning up.
It get high above, near another nice big one.
Another pointy one! I like it.
A confusion of globos being readied for lift off.
It looks like they made it up. The one on the left is a goner, though.
The crowd is a a lot bigger now. It is about 4 PM.
Another religiously themed globo is being readied. I don’t know what church; it is not on the balloon.
One of the crew is wearing an Independence Day hat, like you can buy at WalMart.
These guys lying on the ground while filling the globo with hot air. Crew members, men and women, support it while it is filled.
It is ready.
We have lift off!
Close-up of the crew when it releases and goes up.
There is goes. How beautiful!
Oh no! How tragic!
We stopped by a food vendor, after seeing a great looking burrito in Robyn’s hand. We ordered ours, and waited for them to be made.
Here is the finished product, carnitas con todo, “with everything,” wrapped in a flour tortilla, grilled to perfection. And a beer to wash it down.
High in the sky, this globo catches the sun’s rays.
Another fiery globo in the sky. Watch out below.
We loved watching the children.
She points to the sky, to get her brother to look up.
Another one is burning up.
The two girls have their arms around the boy and are throwing him into the air. What fun!
Meanwhile, back in the sky …
Here’s Spiderman! Spidey in the sky.
Oops. On his side. I know what comes next.
Not looking good.
The end of Spiderman. Don’t tell Brody. (inside joke)
In this drama of life and death, beginnings and endings, another globo is being filled. We were told the several hundred would be launched before the day was done. And that the big ones come later. This is a big one. Maybe it is “later” already.
With a bucket below, just like the real hot air balloons. Great design, too. What a nice job.
There it goes. My winner for style. It’s sponsored by Access Lake Chapala, a great website for local information.
Cartoon character. What is his name?
From Tango Restaurant, in Ajijic. (By the way, great steaks, and the best vegetarian salad in town.)
I can’t read the sign hanging below. I think it’s the logo of a local restaurant. I love how it catches the light.
There is the small boy again, held by an adoring Gringo.
A pair of globos catch the light.
Uh oh, one caught fire is is falling toward the other one.
This one is worth a grand award. Wow.
And it got airborne just fine. I can’t read the banner.
A girl feeds her brother some drink.
Another lift off. Another patchwork one.
Look at this one. They are getting more grand!
It is a giant frog. These big ones are plastic, I guess.
A frog with a guitar. From some Mexican story, perhaps. Anyone know about this?
Here he goes.
A happy frog with a guitar smiles at us as he flies away.
Are those Disney princesses?
The penguin, mascot of a restaurant Just Chillin’ Bar and Grill. (We had passed this restaurant several times and thought it was for the “younger set.” Then we ate there and realized that “the younger set” around here is anyone under 89.)
But Just Chillin’ is now just burnin’. Oh well, there is always next year.
The end of a great idea.
The crowd still has its eyes in the sky.
We were tired out and left. But what a day! This kind of community gathering is wonderful; the happy mixing of everyone. What a good way to start a festival season. No wonder this is now a tradition here.