• Image about Yoro
Art by Tina Zellmer

Once a year in Yoro, Honduras, locals catch buckets of fish falling from the sky and fry them up for dinner. Normal? Far from it. But it definitely gets your attention.

Locals in the north-central region of Honduras know the storms will come. Each year, during the months of June and July, they look for peculiar dark cumulonimbus mammatus clouds to form in the skies — a sign that fierce rains will soon drench the mountain village of Yoro and the surrounding area. And along with that rain fall thousands of live fish. Yes, that’s right — fish. After the rains subside, people emerge from their dwellings, gather up the still-wriggling scaly creatures in baskets and take them home to cook.

Locals believe the fish rain began in the 19th century after a visit from a Spanish missionary who prayed for help to feed the poor. His prayers were answered with a deluge of fish from the heavens.

The strange Lluvia de Peces (Rain of Fish) happens only in Yoro, and it has occurred here for more than 100 years. The fish don’t rain down within the actual town proper, though — rather, they seem to favor the El Pantano neighborhood, one kilometer to the southwest.

The rain occurs so regularly that it’s become folklore to the region: Local artists have produced paintings depicting a village pelted with fish; there’s a popular Honduran song that pays homage to the fish rain; and, in 1998, the annual Festival de la Lluvia de Peces was established to celebrate the phenomenon with music, costumes, a parade and plenty of fried fish. There’s even one Yoro man who claimed his finger was broken by a falling fish.

This absurd phenomenon may seem freakish and weird, and it is, of course. But the idea of animals raining down on the earth is as old as human memory. Examples range from the Book of Exodus to specific documented events around the world. Singapore, Japan, Australia and Louisiana have all reported some sort of creature hailing down from the skies — toads, jellyfish, worms, spiders and, in this case, fish.

With annual sightings dating back over a century, Yoro, Honduras, is the undisputed world capital of critter rain. But after many scientific investigations, still nobody is really sure why. Locals believe the fish rain began in the 19th century after a visit from a Spanish missionary, Father Manuel de Jesús Subirana, who prayed for three days and nights to help feed the poor people. His prayers were answered with a deluge of fish from the heavens.

According to legend, Subirana’s spiritual connection to a higher power was responsible for the miracle. He is still considered a saint in the community, and his remains are buried in a local church.

Scientific research into the Lluvia de Peces traces back as far as 1962, when the National Meteorological Service of Honduras investigated the subject. They found that all of the fallen fish were of the same sardine species, all were about the same in size and weight — and they were definitely not from the immediate area.