Nejapa El Salvador. Home to the Balls of Fire Festival

By Maria.  |  Aug 30th, 2023
Nejapa El Salvador
Najepa’s Balls of Fire Festival. Photo by TRT World

The town of Nejapa El Salvador is famous for its traditional balls of fire festival, a unique celebration known all over. Nejapa is located in the department of San Salvador; it is about 17 kilometers from the San Salvador Historic district.

Nejapa is your typical Salvadoran small town rich with local history and colorful traditions. And just like many other towns in the country, it has ties to colonial times or even before.

Culture and Tourism of Nejapa

Nejapa is an attractive municipality worth visiting. It has fantastic cultural customs and traditions, most of them related to religion. Now, when it comes to tourism, Nejapa is not a top destination in the country.

Nejapa has excellent cultural traditions; they are in full display during its Patron saint festivities. These festive days are in September, from the 19th to the 30th; they honor Saint Jerome, the municipality’s patron saint.

If you want to visit Nejapa as a tourist, it is recommended to do it in September during the patron festivities; or on August 31st, during the awesome balls of fire festival.

Nejapa El Salvador
Balls of Fire Festival in Nejapa.

The Nejapa’s Balls of Fire Festival

The Balls of Fire Festival is a local tradition unique to Nejapa that involves religion and history. This unique tradition involves two opposing teams throwing balls of fire at each other.

Think about having a snow fight; however, instead of using snowballs, you use balls engulfed in kerosene and set on fire. Yes, the two opposing teams fight each other with these fireballs. Fun, is it?

SEE ALSO: El Salvador Celebrations. El Salvador Holidays and Traditions

The festival takes place every year on August 31st. According to historians, the celebration has two origins, one historical and one religious.

The regular version explains that in 1658, the El Playon volcano erupted; it forced the villagers of the old Nejapa village, known as Nixapa, to leave and settle at its current location. The festival is a way of remembering that catastrophic event.

The religious version states that during the volcano eruption, Saint Jerome fought the Devil. Saint Jerome is the patron saint of the municipality.

Saint Jerome fought with Fire Balls as the lava flow descended from the volcano and into the village. The religious celebration is a way of reenacting the fight between good and evil.

In any case, the Balls of Fire Festival in Nejapa is a unique event that it’s worth attending, observing, and experiencing.

Short History of Nejapa El Salvador

According to historians, the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Nejapa were Pipil Indians. It is theorized that the original town was located near the Opico.

Then, due to the eruption of the El Playon Volcano in 1658, the inhabitants moved to Quezaltepeque; subsequently, they moved to the site it currently occupies.

In 1878, by legislative decree, Nejapa received the title of Villa; eventually, in 1959, again by legislative declaration, Nejapa’s title changed from Villa to City.

Town of Nejapa
Nejapa’s Municipal Park

Nejapa’s Economy

The economy of the municipality is based on agriculture, farming, manufacturing, and general commerce activities.

The agricultural activity of the municipality is based on the cultivation of coffee, basic grains, vegetables, and fruits.

Nejapa also has livestock farming. It includes the domestic breeding of cattle and pigs, as well as poultry.

The municipality has factories that produce food products; also, there is a beverage bottling factory and a coffee mill.

Additionally, Nejapa has metal structure workshops, bakeries, carpentry, and other industries.

Lastly, the general commerce activities of Nejapa include pharmacies, hardware stores, shoe stores, bookstores, and many others.

Nejapa’s Balls of Fire Festival.
Nejapa’s Balls of Fire Festival.

Nejapa’s Location

Nejapa is located about 25 kilometers from the city of San Salvador and 58 kilometers from the international airport.

The municipality limits to the North with Quezaltepeque and Aguilares. To the East with Guazapa and Apopa. To the South with San Salvador and Santa Tecla, and to the West with Quezaltepeque.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador Tourism: A Journey Through Pristine Beaches, Colorful Towns, and Enchanting Parks

Nejapa El Salvador

The municipality and town of Nejapa are your typical Salvadoran small community. It’s believed that the total population is less than 40,000; of course, this is a general estimate as El Salvador does not have an official census.

So, if you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend you visit this municipality. But, you should do it on August 31st to see the Balls of Fire Festival; or visit during the patron saint festivities in September.