La Tomatina

La Tomatina
La Tomatina is arguably the most famous food fight in the world. It is held in the town of Buñol, Valencia, Spain on the last Wednesday in August, attracting about 30,000 people from all over Spain and abroad. La Tomatina is one of the most popular summertime tourist attractions in Spain.

The first tomato fight in Buñol took place in 1945 during the popular traditional festival of Gigantes y Cabezudos (Giants and Heads) that featured giant carnival figures with grotesque heads. A group of young people tried to join the parade and climbed one of the platforms to the dismay of official participants. One of the young men fell off the platform, got angry and started throwing tomatoes from a nearby vegetable stand at everyone who tried to approach him. The incident quickly transformed into a full-blown tomato fight that was stopped by the local police.

Next year, another tomato fight occurred, but this time it was planned. The initiators even brought their own tomatoes. The police, once again, intervened, but the seed had already been planted. La Tomatina was held at irregular intervals during the 1950s, with little formal organization. The festival took shape in its current form in 1975. Since 1980, it has been organized by the town council.

La Tomatina is held in honor of Saint Louis Bertrand, who is one of the patron saints of Buñol. The festivities take place over a week in late August, but the battle itself is held on the last Wednesday of the month. It involves about 150,000 kilograms of overripe tomatoes which are brought from the neighboring the municipality of Xilxes (Chilches), where they are less expensive.

The Tomatina festival starts at around 11 am. The fight itself can begin only when someone climbs a greased pole with a large piece of ham on top and brings the ham down. When the winner reaches the bottom of the pole, the cannon signals the beginning of the fight. Once the battle starts, it is generally every man for himself. Usually, the fight lasts for about an hour. The cannon is fired once more to signal the end of the battle. At his point, throwing tomatoes is not allowed. As soon as the crowd disperses, fire trucks hose down the streets to remove tomato paste they are covered with.

To participate in the fight, one must pay an entry fee. Tickets for the event are sold to regulate the capacity and guarantee safety of the participants. All participants are expected to follow instructions that ensure that no one gets injured. For example, you must squash the tomato before throwing it. Throwing other items such as glass bottles is strictly prohibited. The participants are strongly encouraged to wear gloves and goggles for protection.

La Tomatina

Photo: Tico Tomatina




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