High Inflation Rates / by Rob Fleming

Globos de Cantoya (Cantoya's Balloons)

Named for mid-19th century Mexican aeronaut Joaquin de la Cantolla y Rico, these delicate, handmade, tissue paper balloons are the centerpiece of Pátzcuaro, Mexico's annual CantoyaFest.

Over the course of three days, 250 large-scale, unmanned balloons (plus untold thousands of smaller, personal ones) are launched, filling the skies of this welcoming Purepechan/Tarascan colonial town.

Heart of Gold (and Green, and Pink, and Purple, and...)   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Heart of Gold (and Green, and Pink, and Purple, and...)
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017


Size

Torso-sized, car-sized, house-sized: Make 'em any size. Being handmade, balloons are limited only by one's creativity, skill and budget. And physics, of course.

Linn and I attended a workshop and made a five-sided, five-sheet lantern (similar to Elmo, below), which took us about 45 minutes to construct. 

Tickle Me   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tickle Me
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

For the sake of size comparison, an Elmo-sized lantern trails behind as the bottom cube in this triptych of balloons.

Cubes³ (Cubes, Cubed)   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Cubes³ (Cubes, Cubed)
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Larger...

Check. Mate.   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Check. Mate.
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

...and larger, still. Balloons can be easily three or more stories tall.

Church Music   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Church Music
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017


Construction

Materials needed to make a Cantoya balloon:
• Tissue Paper
• White Glue
• Box Cutter
• Pliable Wire (for aperture, positioning the fuel)
• Paraffin-soaked cloth

Fitted Sheets   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Friday, July 21, 2017

Fitted Sheets
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Friday, July 21, 2017

Beats by AnDREs   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Friday, July 21, 2017

Beats by AnDREs
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Friday, July 21, 2017

Contest Day: Teams of three to five people had 8 hours to construct and launch what would be judged as the most elaborate balloon. Each team was given the same quantity of materials and had to assemble everything on site. The winning team was awarded a cash prize.

Glue Factory   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Friday, July 21, 2017

Glue Factory
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Friday, July 21, 2017

"Look! I'm Helping!" (aka Whirling Dervish)   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Friday, July 21, 2017

"Look! I'm Helping!" (aka Whirling Dervish)
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Friday, July 21, 2017


Design

The intricacies of design and construction can be appreciated upon close inspection. 

Stained 'Lips   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Stained 'Lips
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

 Pink Pincushion   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

 Pink Pincushion
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Patterns begin to emerge in both positive and negative spaces.

Starry Void   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Starry Void
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Color Wheel   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Color Wheel
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017


Launching

Of course, bringing delicate tissue paper in close proximity to fire is a recipe for disaster. Wrangling the balloon while trying to get it aloft is inherently stressful for crew members and viewers alike.

An errant gust of wind during inflation or lift-off can create instant chaos, turning a stunning globo...

Porcupine   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Porcupine
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Flaming Porcupine   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Flaming Porcupine
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

into a Hindenburg-sized calamity in mere seconds.

Rumor has it that this particular balloon's crew worked for three, long months assembling their balloon, only to see it fail spectacular on the launch pad.


Safety

And because of that high-risk of fire, event organizers have wisely scheduled the festival during Michoacán's rainy season. Sure, the weather may force unscheduled rain-delays, but launching an unmanned, fire-fueled balloon out into the countryside during the dry season is just irresponsible.

Raindrops Keep Fallin'...   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Raindrops Keep Fallin'...
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

During a rain break, a gendarme recruit trots out his falcon.

Birdman   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Birdman
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017


Invited Guests

Festival organizers invite balloon makers from all over the world to participate. This year, masterful artists from France, Colombia, El Salvador, Portugal and Brazil attended.

Those Brazilians were particularly enthused about coming to Mexico this year, because their government has outlawed all balloon construction within their country. (Balloons are frequent vehicles for launching airborne fireworks.)

Brazilian artists design and fabricate their balloons at home in large sections, smuggle the segments out of the country, and then assemble the wedges once they've arrived in Mexico.

Imagine trying to explain to the TSA why you've got a giant Jesus in your carry-on.

El Señor...   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

El Señor...
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

...and His Crown of Thorns   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

...and His Crown of Thorns
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hello, Dolly!   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hello, Dolly!
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

This doll launched successfully but caught fire shortly after take-off. It landed on a nearby tile roof and fire crews rushed to extinguish the flames.

Location! Location! Location!   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Location! Location! Location!
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

(Note the drone, taking aerial video and trying desperately not to puncture the balloon with its rotors.)

Tail Winds   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tail Winds
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

In order to stabilize the "mother balloon" and prevent it from tipping (and igniting itself), many balloons use a counter-balance or tail. This massive banner, also made entirely from tissue paper, hung below the balloon from Pátzcuaro.


Shapes

Balloons come in all shapes and designs as well. From the simple...

Ceci n'est pas un ballon.    CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ceci n'est pas un ballon.
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Clef P  alette   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Clef Palette
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

...to the graphic...

Quilting Block   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Quilting Block
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Outside the Box   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Outside the Box
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Close Encounter   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Close Encounter
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

...to the pointy...

Sea Urchin   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sea Urchin
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Thorny Devil   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Thorny Devil
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

...to the wildly complex.
Advanced designers use architectural CAD software to help them piece together madcap designs.

Prickly Pear   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Prickly Pear
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Court Jester   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Court Jester
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Luckily, there are strong wranglers to get those mammoth balloons launched. These larger balloons have been known to travel up to 20-25 miles downwind.

Lucha Libre   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Lucha Libre
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017


Nightime

Come nightfall, balloons take on a magical, etherial glow.

Sooie!   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sooie!
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Death and the Maiden   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Death and the Maiden
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Lupita   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Lupita
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Many balloons launched at night are adorned with colored votive candles which have been draped over their tops in concentric rings.

La Catrina   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

La Catrina
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

And the effect is stunning.
Unfortunately, this Beauty needed a lot more oomph to get it launched. Aloft for only a minute or two...

Dripping in Jewels   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dripping in Jewels
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

...her lace veil of candles snagged on a tile roof, and her end came quickly in a fiery blast.

Bracing for Impact   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bracing for Impact
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017


Pátzcuaro

What makes CantoyaFest magical for me is the juxtaposition of balloons and the town of Pátzcuaro, its architecture and inhabitants.

Balloons in the Belfry   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Balloons in the Belfry
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

First Steps   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

First Steps
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Sunday, July 23, 2017

Kids are always having a great time.

Gone Fishin'   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Gone Fishin'
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

While daily life in town continues unabated.
From weddings....

All About That Bass   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

All About That Bass
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dad's Tie, Methinks   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dad's Tie, Methinks
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

...to funerals.

Destination, Unknown   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Friday, July 21, 2017

Destination, Unknown
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Friday, July 21, 2017

From museums...

Tres Hermanas   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tres Hermanas
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Helping Hand   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Helping Hand
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

...to shops...

Just Ducky   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Friday, July 21, 2017

Just Ducky
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Friday, July 21, 2017

..to holy places.

Faith Lift   CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Faith Lift
CantoyaFest: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico — Saturday, July 22, 2017

Also in my Scrapbook: Photos from CantoyaFest 2014 in Paracho

All Photos © Rob Fleming, 2017