Bolas de Fuego (Fireball Festival) – Nejapa, El Salvador - Atlas Obscura

Bolas de Fuego (Fireball Festival)

Nejapa, El Salvador

This risky summer festival honors a historic volcanic eruption. 


Each year on the evening of August 31, residents of small Salvadoran town Nejapa paint their faces to look like skulls, soak their clothes and a pair of gardening gloves in water, and take to the streets in two teams for the annual Bolas del Fuego, or Fireball Festival. 

The Fireball Festival commemorates a landmark volcanic eruption in 1658, which, according to legend, was actually a battle between local patron saint San Jeronimo and the Devil. As a tribute to this divine clash between good and evil, Nejapa becomes an unregulated battleground for two warring groups, who marinate balls of cloth in kerosene, light them on fire, and hurl them at one another at close range while flanking crowds cheer them on.

The Fireball Festival is one of the most prominent events on Nejapa’s calendar, with emergency medical respondents and a fleet of cops on hand for when chaos inevitably ensues. With no set rules or laws to abide by, in conjunction with its religious significance in a devout region, the Fireball Festival is a point of both celebration and criticism, but a sure-fire spectacle nonetheless.

Know Before You Go

The Fireball Festival takes place every August 31 in the streets of Nejapa.

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