Spain can easily be termed as the land of wild fiestas of festivals, which get all the people out on the open streets partying freely and ecstatically with their neighbours. La Tomatina is also one of those hysterically amusing and entertaining Spanish festival, which is held in the Valencian town of Buñol, located in the East of Spain 30 km from the Mediterranean. Apart from the most famous festival of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Las Fallas in Valencia and the festival of Cascamorras in the Andalusian town of Baza and Guadix, La Tomatina is equally strange and interesting.
Since its inception in 1945, this entertaining tomato fight festival, known as the world’s biggest food fight, is held on the last Wednesday of August, during the week of festivities of Buñol. The festival is all about a mock fight, where the participants use ripe tomatoes as their only weapon and throw them indiscriminately at each other in the streets, simply and uniquely for fun and ride down those tomatoes-streaked slides having the time of their lives.
Though the origin of La Tomatina is not very clear, it is suggested that in the last Wednesday of August in 1945, when an annual parade of the enormous figures with giant heads (Gigantes y Cabezudos) was passing through the streets of Bunyol, some youngsters tried to join in the parade and accidentally knocked over one of the giants. The ensuing verbal repercussion soon turned into a fight, when the youngsters grabbed some tomatoes from a nearby vegetable stall and started throwing them at the opponents, until the police interfered. However, that was not the end of it. The following year on the same last Wednesday of August, those young people returned to the town hall square with extra energy and started another tomato fight using their own tomatoes. The local council tried several times to ban the 'El Dia de la Tomatina', but the event continued to grow, despite police arrests.
Though La Tomatina is basically a tomato fight, it starts with an event known as ‘Palo jabon’, where the participants are to climb a greased pole and unload ham from its top. As soon as someone succeeds to grab the prize piece of ham, the authorities give the signal to start the tomato fight and jets of water starts to fire from the waiting trucks in the air to soak the crowd. Simultaneously, numbers of truck arrive at the spot and provide tomatoes in abundance.
Equipped with their weapon the people become almost crazy and the mock fight starts, which lasts for an hour. At the end of the crazy fight, the whole town square seems to be covered with tomato pulps and paste. To remove the slippery paste and stain, the fire trucks are used to spray gallons of water down the streets and after the cleaning spree, the cobblestone streets of the town hall square become completely clean due to the acidity of the tomato.
General Francisco Franco revoked the holiday on the occasion of La Tomatina for not having any social or religious significance, but it was reinstated after his death, during the second lap of 1970s. A few years after that, since 1975, the patron of the town of Buñol has declared to take all the responsibilities to organize the whole festival, as well as, to supply the tomatoes for the participants free of cost. Consequently, the number of participants has increased substantially from the next year. Today, thousands of people flocking to this little Valencian town from around the world, to enjoy and participate in this weird event and it has become one of the major highlights of Spain’s summer.