LA TOMATINA – Annually festival of Valencian

What is La Tomatina?

La Tomatina is a festival that takes place annually in the Valencian town of Buñol which is located in the eastern part of Spain. Buñol has a population of only 9000 people, however, it receives most of its traction from thousands of visitors every year, who specifically visit the town to take part in this festival. During this festival, participants throw tomatoes and get into tomato fights. The event takes place on the last Wednesday of August during a whole week of festivities in this Valencian Town. The event has a maximum capacity of twenty-two thousand participants all above the age of eighteen years.

La Tomatina
La Tomatina |pc- Pinterest

How did the festival La Tomatina come into being?

The story of how the Tomatina came into the picture dates back to August of 1945. A few young people were spending their time in the town square while attending the ‘Giants and Big-Heads figures’ parade when one of the participant’s Bighead fell off due to the enthusiasm of the young new entrants. This led to the participant getting angry and hitting everything in his path. This event led to a big brawl amongst the crowd and one vegetable stall fell prey to this situation. People eventually took up tomatoes and started pelting these at each other until the local forces ended this brawl.

This event became a memorable one and the following year, a few young people engaged in a similar pre-planned brawl with their tomatoes that they had brought from home. Although this has again stopped by the local forces, it had now set the foundation for what would bloom into a yearly tradition that would be taken up by thousands of people.

Difficulty in the establishment and official declaration

The Tomatina, however, did not rise to prominence without facing its own set of struggles. In the early 1950s, the Tomatina has banned and everyone who participated that year was arrested. This had led to widespread protests and the festivities have then allowed resuming. However, in 1957, the festival has canceled again reportedly due to the insistence of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco who felt that the festival had no religious significance.  To protest this move, the people held a tomato burial in which the people carried a huge tomato inside a coffin. It was accompanied by a music band which played mainly funeral marches. Giving in to the pressure, the Tomatina has then declared as an official festival and the festivities could be resumed.

The Tomatina, gained a lot of publicity owing to the work of the Spanish Broadcaster, Javier Basilio. Basilio has a broadcaster for a program called Informe Semanal. Javier Basilio wrote up a report about the festival which helped garner interest in people from the rest of Spain. Owing to this, the number of participants in the festival increased. The success of the festival had led to It earning the accolade of having declared ‘Festivity of International Tourist Interest’ by the Secretary Department of Tourism.

Celebrations

The festival starts at 9 Am in the town square where a breakfast comprising of rolls and pastries has provided the Town Hall. Before the beginning of the fight, a large pole has erected. This pole has covered with soap and has a leg of ham on the end. The people make attempts at reaching this leg, much to the delight of the onlookers.

The tomato fight which is a part of the festival generally lasts for about an hour. The fight commences once the water cannons have fired at 11 AM.  This follows the trucks arrive at the Plaza del Pueblo of Buñol with large quantities of tomatoes. Often locals at the back of the trucks throw tomatoes from the truck at all the festival-goers. The truck then stops and unloads the bulk of the tomatoes which serve as ammunition for the participants.

The festival participants then scoop the fallen tomatoes or use their tomatoes to start the fight. This fight lasts for about an hour with people pelting tomatoes at each other. Following the end of the fight, trucks drive around the town spraying the town center and the streets clean. It has said that due to citric acid present in the tomatoes, the streets of Buñol are very clean after having washed down. The participants often use the hoses provided by the locals to wash and remove the tomatoes from their bodies. Some participants even go to the Buñol River to wash.

Rules of Tomatina

The city council has set up a shortlist of rules that must be followed by all the participants of the festival.

  1. Do not throw anything but tomatoes.
  2. Do not wear clothes.
  3. The tomatoes must be squashed before they are thrown to prevent injury.
  4. A safe distance must be maintained from the trucks.
  5. As soon as the second shot is fired from the water cannon the fight must be stopped. Not tomatoes can be thrown after this shot is fired.
  6. Follow the directions of the security staff
  7. Only throw tomatoes ate the targets you can see to avoid injury to others.
  8. The tomatoes must not be thrown directly at the buildings.

The Tomatina used to be a free for all event up until 2013 and used to attract a crowd ranging between forty thousand to fifty thousand people. However, since 2013, official ticketing has been put in place to restrict the numbers and only ticket holders are allowed to take part in the event. According to the official website for the tourism of Spain, the ticket for general admission costs about Ten Euros.

Inspiration to other festivals

The Tomatina has inspired similar festivals across the globe.

  1. The Town of Twin Lakes, Colorado holds a tomato fight called the “Colorado Texas Tomato War” since 1982.
  2. The Columbian Town of Sutamarchan, since 2004, holds a similar event when a surplus of tomatoes is harvested.
  3. The Town of Dongguan in China hosts a tomato fight in October.
  4. The city of Reno in the united states too started its own La Tomatina (while giving full credit to the original festival) since 2009. The event takes place on the last Sunday of August and is also an hour-long fight, much like the original festival.

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