La Tomatina Festival: Prepare for the Tomato Battle

La Tomatina Festival: Prepare for the Tomato Battle

La Tomatina Festival started at around 1944 or 1945 when some children threw a tomato on a musician which turned into a food fight. / Photo by: Iakov Filimonov via Shutterstock

 

Ketchup and tomato lovers are sure to enjoy this Spanish festival! On the last Wednesday of August of every year, the folks of Buñol, a town and municipality in the province of Valencia in Spain and an increasing number of curious tourists would gather around to celebrate the “La Tomatina” festival where everyone is officially allowed to launch truckloads of ripe tomatoes at each other. This festival is considered to be the biggest food fight in the world.

On the day of the festival, trucks coming from Plaza del Pueblo filled with tomatoes enter the scene at around 11 o’clock in the morning. Then, to begin the celebration, someone from the crowd has to reach the top of a two-story tall pole where a piece of ham awaits. Since it takes quite a while for the person to get to the very top, the festival starts anyway even if no one actually snags the ham. When the water cannons are fired, it signifies the commencement of the tomato war, latomatinatours.com says. This is when tomatoes are launched in every direction. For safety, anyone who wants to participate in the tomato-drenched battle has to be armed with goggles and gloves, latomatina.org suggests.

At the strike of one, water cannons will be fired again to signal the end of “hostilities.” When the tomato fight is over, fire trucks shower the streets with water taken from a Roman aqueduct. Visitors may clean themselves up by either stopping by the Buñol River to get washed, using the provided public showers, or getting hosed by some of the locals.

The Messy Origins of the Tomato Chaos

Nobody is certain about how it really all began, but there sure are a lot of its origin stories. According to the rumors, it was around 1944 or 1945 when the chaos was first perpetrated by some children, who with a tomato, targeted a musician, the Matador Network narrates. Eventually, it turned into an all-out food fight in the town. Other locals say that La Tomatina began as a part of a class war, a food fight among friends, a result of the spillage of a lorry from an accident. It may also have possibly been initiated by bystanders who suddenly began throwing tomatoes at a carnival parade.

Spanish-fiestas.com gives a detailed description of the alleged history of La Tomatina. It was said that there were boys who were watching the Giants and Bigheads figures parade (“Gigantes y Cabezudos”) on a Wednesday in August. When the young boys attempted to join the parade, they ended up making one of the “giants” fall down. Furious, when the person inside the giant got back up, he indiscriminately swung at anyone who came near. As payback, the boys grabbed some tomatoes from the closest vegetable stall and attacked the giant. They only stopped when the police intervened.

A year after, on the same day, the boys went back to the town hall square and brought their own tomatoes with them. The mischievous kids initiated another tomato fight, which the police had to cut off again. It kept happening year after year and eventually came to be known as “El Dia de La Tomatina.”

The council tried to ban it in 1957, arresting those who would participate in the tomato fight. The residents protested to this ban by conducting a funeral for a huge tomato that was placed inside a coffin. Bands performed funeral marches as part of the protest. In resignation, the council finally authorized the La Tomatina festival and they let the locals celebrate it freely. This incident was publicized by the reporter Javier Basilio on Informe Semanal, a Spanish television program, latomatino.org reveals. When the festivity became official, more and more people participated in it.

Battle Guidelines and Preparation

Participants of the La Tomatina festival are advised not to bring any glass bottles or other hard objects that may hurt others who are also celebrating. They are also not allowed to tear other people’s shirts. Before throwing a tomato, it should be crushed first to prevent others from getting harmed. They are also advised to keep themselves at a safe distance from the lorries. When the second water cannon is shot, participants should already stop throwing tomatoes.

Individuals joining the festival are also reminded to wear shoes instead of slippers because wearing slippers could make them slip during the tomato fight. Since the clothes and shoes that they wear to the celebration are bound to get dirty, soaked, and damaged, the outfit is normally thrown away after the event. It is also suggested that they bring a waterproof camera or phone if they want to snap photos. If the participants are visitors, they are advised to reserve accommodation before heading to Buñol if they plan to stay overnight. It will also be a good idea to wear goggles to the festival to protect their eyes, as well something to wipe their goggles with.

 

People who will join the tomato fight are advised to wear goggles. / Photo by: Iakov Filimonov via Shutterstock

 

About Buñol and Where to Stay

The town of Buñol has an estimated 9,000 residents, but during La Tomatina, the population rises to around 30,000 people. Tourists may opt to book a budget hostel or hotel in Valencia. Hotel Condes Buñol can be another lodging option for them. If they are up for camping, they may try staying at La Granjita in Chiva where they can sleep in tents and wash at the nearby pool after the festival.