The Shocking Fireball Festival of Nejapa

The Fireball Festival is an old tradition celebrated each year, on August 31st, in the town of Nejapa, El Salvador.

“Las Bolas de Fuego”, as the locals refer to this bizarre event, is actually a reenactment of the fight between San Jeronimo and the devil. In 1922, the people of Nejapa and the surrounding area were forced to evacuate, by the eruption of a nearby volcano. As they were leaving, locals saw great balls of fire spewing out of the volcano, and believed their patron saint was actually fighting the devil with them.

Ever since they witnessed the fight between good and evil, the people of Nejapa have celebrated it each year, by organizing their very own fireball fight. If you didn’t know this was an organized celebration, you’d be tempted to think you’ve been dropped in the middle of a war-zone. Two teams of young men, with their faces covered by war paint, throw flaming fireballs at each other, surrounded by hundreds of bystanders who watch their every move.

Equipped with gloves and clothes soaked in water, the brave combatants throw and at the same time, evade the flaming fireballs made from rags and dipped in fuel. Some of their clothes do catch on fire, and some of the participants are often hit right in the face, at point blank, but despite all the health hazards, few injuries have been reported during the Fireball Festival.

It’s definitely a shocking display, but un a country like El Salvador, where gangs and violence are everywhere, getting hit by a flaming fireball, during “Las Bolas de Fuego” is the least dangerous thing that can happen.

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