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La Tomatina

Tomatina

La Tomatina. La Tomatina in Buñol, close to the Spanish city Valencia, is a celebration fight where people have fun with tons of tomatoes.

Tomatoe Fight in Spain

The sunny Mediterranean city of Valencia in Spain is known around the world for its tasty and succulent oranges. And just thirty miles away is Buñol, another town just as famous for its produce. But its notoriety comes from the locals' habit of wearing the produce as well as eating it—big time. Every year, Buñol hosts La Tomatina, the world's largest food fight. Well connected by motorway and rail to Madrid and Valencia, this charming town erupts into a fiery blaze of tomato-hurling on the last Wednesday of every August. The batalla takes place during a week-long celebration filled with non-stop festivities and the ever present anticipation of the monstrous tomato battle that serves as the culmination of the week's events.

The Tomatina started during the annual town festival in hour of their patrons San Luis Bertran and the Our Lady of the Forsaken. One parade that takes place during the town fiesta is the parade of the giant heads. As just so happened one year back in the 1940’s some youngsters wanted to participate in this parade but the participants didn’t let them join. In a moment of youthful impulse the kids barged into the parade knocking down one of the participants. When this person got back on his feet, furious with what had occurred, he went to the nearest stall and grabbed the first thing he could find—some tomatoes. I think you can imagine the rest. From that moment on, this festival has grown in popularity year after year.

During the week leading up to this epic battle, the 9000 inhabitants of Buñol watch as their town doubles in size. A whole week of parades, fireworks, food and street parties make this town the center of attention in Spain. The night before La Tomatina, the narrow streets beneath the town's medieval bell tower begin to fill with the smell of tomatoes.  You will find giant pans of delectable paella simmering, as is tradition, over wood-burning fires each one trying to win the paella contest. After the contest, wine flows and more food is eaten all over the small town until the early hours of the morning.

Then, early Wednesday morning, shopkeepers and business owners along the Plaza Mayor of the town set about covering windows and doors in preparation for the upcoming street brawl. Large trucks rumble up the cobblestone streets and arrive in the crowd-filled square ready to unload their haul of tomatoes for the crowd to use. Like many parties, this one doesn’t begin until the sound of an exploding bottle rocket lets the crowd know it is time to start throwing. On the back of the trucks there are townspeople unloading the tomatoes and pelting the crowd with some of the 120 tons of sloppy, squishy tomatoes trucked in from Chilches in Castellon.

Dressed in clothing doomed for the recycling bin, more than 20,000 revelers find the nearest target to hit or anything else that strays within range of their hand-crushed veggie blobs. Soon the streets are awash in seeds, pulp and tomato guts that will shortly leave the cobblestoned streets spotless—thanks to the acidity of the tomatoes—after being hosed down with water. This insanity ensues for exactly one hour until it ends the same way it began—with the sound of a bottle rocket.

If you plan on visiting the Tomatina be aware that you must now pay a municipal tax to participate which you can purchase beforehand. Because this fiesta has increased in popularity, there is now a limit to people that can participate (20,000). Also for those taking part in the Tomatina and would like to take some pictures for posterity, remember: anyone with a camera will be considered a prime target. You have been warned!

Tomatina - Factoids