Watch people hurl fireballs at each other for ‘Balls of Fire’ festival in El Salvador

Screengrab from La Prensa Gráfica Noticias de El Salvador's video
·2 min read

People hurled fireballs at each other to celebrate the annual “Balls of Fire” festival in El Salvador, video shows.

With faces painted or obscured by masks, opposing teams launched flaming, gasoline-drenched rags back and forth down the streets of Nejapa on the night of Aug. 31, Reuters reported.

It was all part of the Bolas de Fuego, or “Balls of Fire” festival, a tourism site, El Salvador Info, explained.

The unique local tradition involves two teams fighting fire with fire at close range on an “unregulated battleground” of Nejapa’s streets, according to Atlas Obscura. Crowds gather along the sidelines to cheer them along, occasionally getting caught in the crossfire themselves, video from La Prensa Gráfica Noticias de El Salvador shows.

The unconventional fire-fighters wear thick wet clothing and gloves, ElSalvador.com reported. They begin preparing in May, making balls out of rags and soaking these in gasoline for over a month, the outlet reported.

Emergency personnel stand on alert while teams throw the fiery projectiles at each other, video shows.

The fire fight had about 150 participants and lasted about two hours, involving roughly 3,000 fireballs, ElSalvador.com reported.

This year’s celebration was the first since the COVID-19 pandemic began and the 100th since the tradition started in 1922, ElSalvador.com. During the day, people celebrated with musical performances, dances, parades, floats, and music, the outlet reported.

The origin of Nejapa’s “Balls of Fire” festival is not entirely certain, El Salvador Info explained. The celebration has two competing explanations, one historic and one religious.

The historic explanation is that the festival commemorates the eruption of El Playon volcano in 1658, according to El Salvador Info. This volcanic eruption forced people to leave Nejapa’s old location and move to the city’s current location about 10 miles north of the country’s capital city of San Salvador.

The religious explanation is that the festival reenacts a fight between the city’s patron saint and the devil which took place amid the volcanic eruption, El Salvador Info explained. The saint hurled fireballs at the devil during this fight, inspiring the city to reenact the battle of good versus evil, according to the outlet.

Regardless of the origins, the “Balls of Fire” festival attracts many national and international visitors to watch the fireball fight firsthand, ElSalvador.com reported.

“It excites me, and it is a passion for me,” one participant told Reuters. “This is culture, and this is love for Nejapa. Every year we will be here.”

Google Translate was used to translate stories from ElSalvador.com and La Prensa Gráfica Noticias de El Salvador.

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