Great Balls Of Fire Light Up Night Sky In El Salvador

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Watch young men in El Salvador hurl fireballs at each other as they celebrate both a volcanic eruption and a unique religious rite...

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Young men throw fiery, gasoline soaked rags at one another in the streets.

But this is not another protest; it's an annual celebration in the town of Nejapa in El Salvador.

Local residents gather every August 31 to hurl fireballs at each other, to commemorate a huge volcanic eruption that forced the whole town to evacuate in 1658.

Those old enough to remember say the festival has reached its 100th year.

[Wilfredo Hernandez, Event Organizer]:
"We commemorate the eruption of San Salvador volcano in 1658 which wiped out the population of Nejapa, moving (the town) from (the areas of) "El Jabali" or "El Playon" to the current location. Historic records date (the celebration) from 1922 but the town's elderly say it (celebration) has reached its centenary."

There is also a religious dimension to the celebrations.

Legend has it that the hot lava which flowed from the volcano, was actually the local Christian Saint Jeronimo fighting the devil with balls of fire.

This is represented today by the two opposing groups launching palm-sized fireballs at each other.

[Juan Carlos Hernandez, Reveller]:
"Everyone comes and its based on tradition and history that Nejapa keeps alive. There are two histories, that the devil tempted Saint Jeronimo and then threw stones of fire. This is where the two gangs come from."

The local tradition has attracted many tourists to the small town.

And despite the apparent dangers, few serious injuries have been reported.

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