Dunlaps in San Salvador

Online journal of the Dunlaps' adventures in San Salvador.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Paulina is a horseback rider. Riding is very competitive here, and a number of my former students have competed. But Paulina did not write about horses. Instead she decribed a Salvadoran tradition that the Dunlaps have "almost" gotten used to: fireworks. Here's Paulina:

Fireworks in El Salvador have been a tradition that goes way back to town celebrations. These celebrations are done in honor of a local saint. To honor this specific saint, people added enthusiasm to the celebration by blowing up colorful fireworks. Subsequently, fireworks became more frequently used in different holidays, such as Christmas and New Year's Eve. Today, fireworks are manufactured in smaller and more varied forms, allowing everyone to join in the fun.

Interestingly enough, fireworks in El Salvador can be purchased legally by any civilian. Big fireworks are bought as spectacles for big parties. These large fireowrks can be found in stores such as “El Dragon Chino” (the Chinese dragon). When Christmas is approaching, firework selling stands are put up in nearly every traffic circle in the city. In these stands you can find other types of firecrackers such as volcancitos, silbadores, fulminantes, estrellitas and morteros.

Volcancitos, as the name proposes, are little volcanoes that when lit release light of all colors, as if it were lava. Fulminantes are little colored balls that have to be thrown hard against the floor in order for them to burst. When they burst, fulminantes release a tiny flame that goes out almost immediately. It is always fun to have fulimante wars by throwing them near to other peoples' shoes. People start jumping all over trying to avoid them. Estrellitas are little sticks that are lit in the tip and burn like stars. These are usually used by little kids because they are said to be the safest.

The most fun are silbadores. Their shape is that of a little thin stick with a tiny string at its tip. You have to fire up that little string and hold the stick until it makes a whistling noise. When you hear the noise, you thrust the stick up into the air and it launches like a rocket. One of the most memorable events of Christmas for kids are silbadores wars. They consist of thrusting silbadores up in the air in the direction of the opposing team. These are harmless since it has very little gunpowder and the only thing that impulses them is air going through a vent they have. Nevertheless, everyone runs at the sight of silbadores. These wars are only for older kids because the running may be a little more dangerous for little kids.

Even though these "battles" might seem a little weird and dangerous, there are very few injuries with these types of firecrackers. The most dangerous are big morteros, and they have already been banned. There are millions of other types of firecrackers, but the ones I’ve mentioned are the most common. Christmas and other celebrations would not be remotely the same without fireworks!