At Basco, we take them very seriously and hold the rich, red, deliciously juicy Mediterranean orbs in high esteem. However, some people in Spain don’t take them seriously at all. Yes, they respect and celebrate them, but ultimately, they just want to go crazy and have more fun than you ever thought was imaginable with tomatoes. This all takes place at La Tomatina Festival.
La Tomatina is a festival like no other. There is just one attraction and one aim; to pelt anyone and everyone with tomatoes until the whole town is writhing in thousands of gallons of passata.
Buñol is a small Valencian town of 10,000 people in the east of Spain. 364 days of the year they are perfectly normal law-abiding Spaniards, but since 1945, on the last Wednesday of August, a mass fight breaks out resulting in the town’s streets running red with the juice and flesh of 120 tonnes of tomatoes.
This year, La Tomatina Festival erupts on 29th August 2018 and up to 40,000 adults from all over the globe are expected to descend on Buñol to take part in an exhilarating tomato fight.
It goes way back to the last Wednesday of August in 1945 and the ‘Gegants i Cabuts’ Giant and Big-Heads parade involving people wearing giant papier mache heads. Some youngsters who’d been at the festival decided to join the parade of marching bands and big heads. Things got a little too lively and they caused one of the Giants to fall and fly into a fit of rage. All hell broke loose as the Big-Head went on the rampage smashing anything in his path. The crowd joined in and a vegetable stall got drawn into the melee. The next thing, furious festival goers were arming themselves with tomatoes and giving each other their best shots. The local police eventually managed to maintain order… until next year’s Gegants i Cabuts.
Well, yes, it was an accident, however, the youngsters decided to come tooled-up with tomatoes of their own next year. The police got whiff of it and squashed the trouble each year until it was banned in the early 1950s. But the locals defied the authorities and carried on the tradition, even risking arrest.
The festival remained cancelled but in 1957, feelings were so high amongst protesting residents that they held a tomato burial. They solemnly paraded a coffin containing a giant tomato around the streets of Buñol whilst a band played funeral marches.
It worked! La Tomatina became an official festival once more. Word of it quickly spread across Spain swelling numbers of festival goes and tomato lovers. Today, it is an event that’s high on bucket lists worldwide and is popular and since 2013 numbers are restricted as it is a ticket only event.
It all starts at 10 am on the last Wednesday in August, not with tomatoes, but with a single ham. ‘El palo jabón’ is an event where a Spanish ham is speared atop a greased pole that is then erected in the square near the church. A human pyramid surrounds the pole as revellers clamber over each other and clamour for the ham. Once the ham is seized, the party kicks in. It’s an incredible sight.
At 11am, after palo jabón, lorry after lorry full of tomatoes and people, slowly push their way through the excited fighters dumping a total of 120 tonnes of ripe tomato ammunition into the crowd. Every conceivable vantage point is taken and the fighting is fierce yet fun. It’s impossible not to laugh.
That depends. Precautions are taken as all tomatoes must be squashed before being thrown. Also, many fighters wear swimming goggles to shield their eyes from the naturally acidic tomato juice.
Some. Don’t throw bottles or hard objects. Don’t tear or throw tee-shirts. Squash tomatoes before throwing them. Keep a safe distance from trucks. Stop throwing tomatoes after the second starter pistol shot. Follow the directions of security staff. Common sense really and nothing to spoil the fun.
Exactly one hour after it starts it stops. A signal is given, ceasefire is declared leaving the whole town in a bright red, dripping, oozing, post-ecstatic state of squelchiness.
It does, though that’s all part of the experience, too. Some go to the ‘Los Peñones’ pool to wash. Most wait for the trucks to return which then hose them and the buildings down.
Actually no, the citric acid in the tomatoes means that once they buildings and streets are hosed down, they’re left sparkling clean.
La Tomatina has inspired other celebrations around the world including in the US, Colombia, Costa Rica, China and India.
Started 1945 in Buñol, Spain. Now circa 40,000 participants. 120 tonnes of tomatoes. 60 minutes. One hell of a mess.
If you’ve been to La Tomatina or are planning to this August, we’d love to hear your experiences and see your tomato splattered pictures. Please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.