La Tomatina in Bunol, Spain
The Tomato Fight
La Tomatina in Bunol, Valencia is the largest food fight on the planet. Every year approximately 40,000 tomato enthusiasts turn up for the biggest tomato fight in the world.
Five bulbous, tomato-packed rockets are sent whistling into the sky to start the festival of La Tomatina. The masses congregated below then launch into a one hour frenzy of tomato throwing - it's everyone for themselves.
One of the highlights of our tour packages is the optional excursion to a nearby village and experience their all night wine & water festival. Join us for the festival experience of a lifetime!
La Tomatina History
There exist several interpretations on the origin of this popular festival. According to some historians, its origin goes back to a "practical joke" that some friends wanted to play on a man who was crossing the town square singing and playing a musical instrument but, apparently, he was doing it so badly that some of the people around decided to take some tomatoes from a fruit and vegetable stall and throw them at him. Everybody else joined in to end up in a tomato battle.
However, the most reliable and historical version says that everything started in 1945. The town square (where the "tomatina" is traditionally held nowadays) was crowded with young people of that time to witness a "Gigantes y Cabezudos" parade (giant carnival figures with a grotesque head). Some of them decided to join the authority committee and music band leading the parade and to do so they pushed the ones who were wearing the giant disguises.
One of the participants fell down and when he stood up he started beating everyone around so everybody got caught up in a fight. Fate or chance, there was a vegetable stall nearby with open crates showing the goods for sale. The young people involved in the fight took the tomatoes from the crates and started throwing them at each other until the police broke up "the battle", and those responsible for the riot paid for the damages.
This riot was not forgotten and the next year on the same Wednesday of August the youths of the town met again at the square, but this time with their own tomatoes. This is how another battle started and once again was stopped by the local police. In fact, in the following years the authorities forbade the celebration of what was already popularly known as the "day of the tomatina". Nevertheless, this celebration has been held every year since then.
In 1950 Buñol Town Hall allowed the festival. But the following year it did not. Some of the young participants were arrested and imprisoned. However, all Buñol residents claimed in their favour, which made the authorities set them free. Due to the popular clamour, the festival was eventually allowed. Moreover, since then, the celebration had more and more participants every year and started to be better known outside Buñol. It was such fun that its participants not only threw tomatoes at each other, but also threw water, threw their friends into the square fountain and they even "attacked" the people who did not take part and were only looking, among them, relevant town personalities. Once again, this caused the banning of the festival, under the threat of serious sanctions and even imprisonment for those who took part in it.
The celebration had taken root so deeply that in 1957, as the "tomatina" couldn't be held, some youths suggested celebrating "the tomato's funeral"; a large popular display with comic parodies, and groups of musicians and singers, among which, the parade of some young people carrying a coffin with a big tomato inside, followed by a band playing funeral marches. From 1959, in response to the people's demands, the Town Hall allowed once again the celebration of the "tomatina" but under certain restrictions such as announcing the start and end of the festival with a banger and prohibiting to throw a single tomato before or after it. From that moment on, the festival was institutionalised although, throughout the years, it suffered some changes, which have to do with the starting of the celebration. Some of these changes were climbing the greased pole, sack races, hot chocolate party, sport events of all kinds, fanfares... although what actually takes place nowadays is the traditional "soap pole"; a tall pole with soap and climbed so as to obtain the trophy at the top: a ham.
Another important date in the history of ‘'la tomatina" is 1975; from this date on, the festival was organised by "Los Clavarios de San Luis Bertrán" (San Luis Bertrán is the patron of the town of Buñol ) who provided the tomatoes, which until then were brought by the locals from their homes. After 1980 it became the Town Hall who is in charge of organising and promoting the festival, so every year the quantity of tons of tomatoes rises as well as the number of participants from all over the world. Despite the great number of people, every year to date la "tomatina" is a success without any incidents.
The Tomato Fight
To get things started there's a monumental 110 ton arsenal of ripe fruit dropped in the town centre. This is delivered by large trucks that stop at strategic points along the narrow street to dump the tomatoes into the waiting hands of the crowd. The local farmers sit on top of the trucks and fire tomatoes (including green ones) at the defenseless crowd. Participants then have one hour in which to hurl tomatoes at each other. Several times throughout the hour trucks come through to re-stock the street with more and more loads of tomatoes.
Whilst there are very few rules in La Tomatina it is important to follow the following rules outlined by the city council so the event runs smoothly without incident, as it has done to date.
|- It is compulsory to squash the tomatoes before throwing them.
- This is a tomato lover's festival so strictly no other projectiles are allowed to be taken in.
- Be careful with the Lorries going through the village.
- You must not rip t-shirts.
- Tomatoes must stop being thrown once the second incendiary device is fired.
After the tomato fight has concluded, the town is transformed back to its former self. Shopkeepers take down their tarpaulins and everyone chips in to hose down the town and each other. Fire Trucks are also used to spray down the streets, with water provided by a Roman aqueduct. It is best to suggest that passengers look for locals with hoses to wash up after the fight. The river is also a popular spot to go after the fight but the water is of questionable cleanliness and there are loads of people queuing up for a chance to wash.