27 September, 2022

The traditional war of the "Fireballs", a cultural legacy in El Salvador

By Luis Alberto López

With restrictions due to the risks of contagion by coronavirus, the edition was held 98 of the traditional War of the "Fireballs" in the municipality of Nejapa, north of San Salvador.

That tradition, in honor of the patron saint of the town San Jerónimo, marks the start of the patron saint festivities that take place during the month of September.

As usual, participate more than 10 thousand people arriving from various parts of the country, but due to sanitary restrictions, a symbolic activity was carried out with the residents of the town.

The War of the Fireballs was declared a Cultural Asset in 2019 by the Ministry of Culture of El Salvador.

The tradition consists of the formation of two groups or teams with approximately fifty young people each., who throw more than a thousand fireballs.

According to oral tradition, Nejapa or Nixapan, which in Nahuatl means "river of ash", was settled in the place of San Lorenzo, destroyed by the eruption of the volcano El Playón (San Salvador) in 1658, after a year, the inhabitants moved to Quezaltepeque and, then, to the current settlement.

Elders of the town maintain that this tradition began in 1922, after the last recorded eruption of the San Salvador Volcano (in 1917); but nevertheless, there are people who consider that it was before that date, because "the balls were made with jute bows, lit with kerosene gas and hit each other with their feet ".

There is also a religious version of this tradition, the population relates that “when Saint Jerome was in penance, the devil tempted him by throwing fireballs at him ".