La Tomatina is a festival held in the Valencian town of Buñol (Spain) on the last Wednesday of August each year, which centers around participants throwing tomatoes at each other.
The Tomatina is essentially an enormous tomato fight which takes place on several streets and in the main square of the town of Buñol.
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Here Come the Tomatoes
The tomato battle usually begins around 11 noon, at which point six trucks are in charge of distributing almost 150 tons of tomatoes among the attendees. Due to huge international interest, since 2013 a maximum capacity of 22,000 people was defined.
The trucks pass at a very slow pace through the crowd gathered along the route (San Luis, Cid, and Plaza del Pueblo streets) while a group of locals, climbing on the vehicles’ dump trucks, are in charge of distributing the tomatoes among the people, throwing them to them.
One of the great moments of the festival occurs when the boxes of the trucks are lifted, dumping large quantities of tomatoes and juice on the streets, to which people throw themselves to bask in them and collect ammunition.
Ready, Steady, … Toma-GO!
The battle lasts for exactly an hour, with firing of the second shell announcing the end. The whole square is dyed red and rivers of tomato juice are formed.
The tomatoes come from Xilxes (Castellón), where they are less expensive and are grown specifically for these festivities, as their flavor is not suitable for consumption.1 Participants are advised to wear protective goggles and gloves. Before throwing, the tomatoes should be crushed so that they do not harm anyone.
Cleaning up the Mess
The process of cleaning the streets is carried out by the cleaning brigades of the locality, helped by the neighbors themselves.
The participants usually take advantage of the water from the hoses to remove the tomato stuck to their bodies and thus give themselves a first cleaning.
Some go to the puddle of “los peñones” to wash themselves. After cleaning, the streets of the village, which are made of cobblestones, are spotless due to the acidity of the tomatoes that disinfects and thoroughly cleans all surfaces.
Origins of La Tomatina
The Tomatina most likely took place for the first time on August 29, 1945. From the start it was about having fun with no religious or political underpinnings.
There are various versions of how it all started.
- The most likely origin, according to Cuenca Yxeres and Giménez Chornet, is in a friendly conflict between groups of youngsters during local celebrations in honor of the town’s patron saint.
- Other stories claim that passers-by tossed tomatoes at a street musician, who soon replied by tossing tomatoes back, or that the incident was caused by a neighbor dispute.
- There is also a story circulating that the initial battle took place during an anti-Franco march, which would contradict the non-political context.
History & Politics
The Tomatina was prohibited by the authorities in 1956, but after protests, it was reinstated in 1959 – under strict conditions (including the time limit of one hour and the obligation for the participants to clean the streets).
The event was first televised nationally in 1983, following which the number of participants climbed from 3,000 to 10,000 and the amount of tomatoes utilized increased from 20,000 kilograms to 40,000 kilograms in 1984.
In 2014 this was increased to a whopping 146,000 kilos of tomatoes. Game on!