In San Juan de la Vega, a small town in south-central Mexico, there's an annual festival that celebrates the town's eponymous saint, San Juanito. The local religious figure is popular even though he's not technically recognized by the Catholic church because of his Robin Hood-like persona, which involved robbing passing mule drivers before giving their money to the poor.
Much like San Juanito himself, the festival in his honor is rather atypical. In addition to celebrating him with prayers, parties, food, and a procession in which mule drivers and thieves reenact a robbery, locals take to the streets every February wielding hammers affixed with homemade packets of chlorate powder and sulfur that explode when the revelers smash them into the concrete. Despite several attempts from local officials and parents to ban the practice and the handful of injuries it regularly causes, the tradition has carried on for 300 years. As one of the hammer-makers said, "It's extreme. We do it for the saint."
Watch along as VICE Mexico travels to San Juan de la Vega to experience this unique ritual firsthand.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.