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Arts & Culture

World Celebrations: Great Balls Of Fire

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This week on World Music (Saturday nights from 8-10 on KSTX 89.1 FM), we'll listen to music from El Salvador and Spain, among other countries, and celebrate two festivals that are guaranteed to get you hot--and bothered (by flying fruit).


Back in 1922 the local volcano in Nejapa, El Salvador, erupted. It sent the locals scurrying to safety. Their assumption at the time was that their beloved Saint Jeronimo was fighting the devil. In remembrance of this event, the local youths re-enact the volcanic activity by hurling lit gasoline-soaked balls of cloth at each other. They do have gloves and also carry wet clothes for a modicum of protection, but it’s not unknown for their clothing to catch fire. Hundreds of spectators line up to view the display, and despite the obviously hazardous aspects of the Bolas de Fuego Festival, there are relatively few serious injuries. Perhaps they are under the auspices of San Jeronimo. 


The last Wednesday of August in Buñol, Spain is reserved for one of the biggest, messiest and yuckiest food fights in the world. Tons of tomatoes are shipped into the little town in large trucks, and as soon as the signal has been given, a free-for-all tomato fight begins. Although the tradition of La Tomatina is a relatively recent one, no one is exactly sure of its origin. It started in 1944. After a few rocky years initially, it was finally designated a bone fide event amongst Spanish festivals in 1975. There’s absolutely no significance to this tomato fight, just an opportunity for some good, messy fun. The actual battle lasts only an hour. It is triggered when a ham placed on top of a greasy pole is retrieved and then participants are showered with and throw tomatoes at each other. The fruit must be squashed before hurling, to help prevent injuries. At the end, people flock to the portable showers, and within a relatively short period, street cleaners leave the streets pristine, and all signs of La Tomatina have completely vanished.   

Learn more about these and other celebrations happening around the world this week on World Music with Deirdre Saravia, Saturday nights at 8:00 on KSTX 89.1 FM.