The… Exploding Hammer Festival!

Each year, locals in San Juan de la Vega, Mexico, strap explosives to sledge hammers and… detonate them in a field. Mike Corey, a travel vlogger specialising in amazing, weird travel experiences, dons his earplugs to investigate. To find out more about Mike, visit the bio page of Mike Corey, Youtuber and photographer.

Mike Corey braves the San Juan de la Vega “Exploding Hammer Festival”…

The craziest festival in the world?

San Juan de la Vega is an annual festival of craziness, in Mexico. Put simply, each year, the men of the town strap home-made fertilizer explosives to giant sledgehammers then slam them into train rail tracks in a field, setting off explosions. Then they cart away the injured.

The origin of this gloriously irresponsible festival is very hazy, lost in the sulfuric smoke haze of too much fertilizer. Legend has it that in the 17th century a miner by the name of Juan Aquino de la Vega had a huge amount of gold stolen by bandits. Saint Juan Bautista (after which the town is now named) aided him in the recovery and they, along with Juan Aquino’s workers won a skirmish with the bandits… with hammers they used for digging the gold. Juan Aquino gave his thanks to Saint Juan Bautista’s help by aiding the poorer locals. He became a Spanish version of Robin Hood—stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. As they celebrated and relived the legendary battle over the years, their grand and powerful blows of their hammers became embellished with explosives.

The re-enactment originally involved the ladrones (bandits) and the arrieros (workers fighting for Aquino), taking in turns to fight it out, but nowadays anyone with some potassium chlorate fertilizer can strap it to a hammer and try their luck.

Locals used to celebrate the festival in town, but as the explosives grew and it became more of a demonstration of manhood, too much of the town got damaged, so they moved it out into a local field, bringing the police and ambulances with them for the predictable results. The most common injuries are lacerations, but some participants burst eardrums and even lose the odd finger. It’s not only the hammer slammers that cop it. Up to 50 onlookers a year have been treated for shrapnel damage.

Tips: Bring… good earplugs!, eye protection (sunglasses), a bandana to cover your mouth from the sulfurous gases.

When: Every February 28th, 9:00 – 15:00

Where: The town of San Juan de la Vega, in Guanajuanto, Mexico. Stay in the nearby town of Celaya.