The Spanish Language Blog

Red from HEAD to tomaTOES

A whole city beyond control. Windows, storefronts and cobbled streets of the historical Buñol coated with squishy red pulps and tomato guts. Struggling crowds in the centre of the city.

You have no chance to hide from this weird spectacle! According to the motto: fight, otherwise you’re going to be the target of attack...but against whom? It doesn’t matter, simply join the show and throw yourself into the tumult of the largest tomato fight in the world!

Hereby, it’s neither a matter of joke, nor have I cooked up this story. A scene like this is taking place every summer in the Spanish city of Buñol, close to Valencia. I swear! More than 20,000 people from all over the world are getting together on the last Wednesday of August to take part at La Tomatina, the largest festival in the world dedicated to a very particular kind of vegetable fight. The only aim permitted: tomatoes, with an amount of ammunition of about 90,000 pounds! This year the Tomatina festival, held on 29th of august, expects around 40,000 participants.

Story behind “La Tomatina”

The historical background of the tomato festival is by no means religious. The annual tomato furor rather started by coincidental reasons during the carnival parade “Gigantes y Cabezudos” of 1945 in Buñol. For pure anger, a group of young people began to throw tomatoes and infected other visitors of the parade that joined the spectacle until the police intervened. After several years of turn taking between acceptations and prohibitions, the spectacle was able not only to establish itself, but also to earn an international reputation.

Tomatina festival in Buñol

On the occasion of the Tomatina, the whole city of Buñol is in a certain “state of emergency” for almost one week.

Beside countless festivities and celebrations like fireworks and street parties, the visitors can enjoy typical Valencian food and participate in the so called ham pole climbing. The goal of this competition is to reach the top of a wooden pole rubbed in with soap and get a piece of Spanish ham.

The day of the Tomatina starts with a water cannon shot as a start signal for the tomato fight around 11 o’clock. Once the huge trucks filled with plenty of “red weapons” arrive at the Plaza de Pueblo, you can feel free to join the crazy tomato battle for at least an hour and a half. My experience tells me, that it’s recommendable to wear REALLY old clothes, special glasses and closed shoes instead of slippers, which you could lose easily while running from your combatants. In consideration of this dirty event you better use a water resistant camera, if you want to take some photos of the spectacle.

The second shot of the water cannon changes everything...the fight is over and you can get rid of the tomato guts by using the public showers placed at your disposal on the riverbank.

How to get to Buñol

Are you curious? Get on a bus from Valencia or Madrid and come to Buñol that day! Find accommodation details or further information about the festival on the official website of La Tomatina.

What are you waiting for? Ready-steady-THROW!

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