The otherwise-sleepy town of Buñol wakes up on the last Wednesday of August each year to welcome the throngs of tourists who flock here for the La Tomatina festival. This CelebrationJoy post brings you some rather interesting facts about this wacky festival and its history.
And yet, this ain’t the weirdest.
If you think revelry in the form of throwing tomatoes at each other was weird, hold that thought. Get to the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, where raging bulls run amok, and you have to run for your life to escape from them. And yes, there’s a fat chance that you can get gored.
I’d brave a tomato assault any day, as long as there are no bulls involved. People in Spain are known for their out-of-this-world revelry, and the La Tomatina festival in Buñol does not fail to impress.
The exact origins of the festival are a bit sketchy. Of course, it wasn’t a festival when it started off, and neither did it attract such worldwide fanfare during its initial days.
But here we are in 2014, inching closer and closer to August, with La Tomatina being bigger than ever. We’re giving you a few interesting facts, along with the festival’s history to get you started.
La Tomatina: History
► As mentioned earlier, the origins of the tomato fight have different versions, but it is estimated that the earliest recorded fight occurred some time in 1944 or 1945.
► Each version recounts a different story―some say it began as a food fight between rival gangs of goons, a class war, or even a practical joke gone bad.
► The most widely accepted theory states that the fight was initiated by the disgruntled townsfolk who attacked the city councilmen with tomatoes during a town celebration.
► The hooliganism was enjoyed to such an extent that the event was granted festival status eventually.
► It was not entirely smooth sailing, though. The festival underwent intermittent bans and cancellations, all due to the rowdiness involved.
► However, with official rules and regulations in place, the already-popular event went on from being a local celebration to a much-anticipated festival worldwide.
► La Tomatina has inspired similar festival in Spanish-speaking regions around the world, including one in Colorado, USA. Called the Colorado Texas Tomato War, it involves a tomato fight between Texans and Coloradans.
La Tomatina: The Festival Itself
► Despite all the hype, the festival itself is quite short, and only lasts through the morning.
► It begins in the a.m. at 10, with a piece of ham (jamon) being placed on top of a large and greasy pole in Plaza del Pueblo, the town square.
► The tomato fight commences only after someone agile enough clambers up the greasy pole and grabs the piece of meat.
► Expect a lot, and I mean a lot of chaos, as desperate locals scramble on top of each other to claim the prized piece of jamon.
► Once the ham is dropped off the pole, a signal rings out to let the tomato trucks enter the arena. People aboard the trucks begin to hurl tomatoes on the street and the public.
► With tomatoes being flung in all directions, the trucks make their way into the town, alongside thousands of people on the streets. It results in a slippery, gooey mess through the whole town, with people drenched in tomato pulp.
► The revelry continues for another hour, after which a signal belts out, indicating the end of the tomato hurling.
► The citizens of Buñol are kind enough to hose the people and the streets with water, giving at least a partial cleansing for the participants.
Rules and Regulations
► It is a traditional custom to wear white during the festivities, possibly to enhance the contrast with the red tomatoes.
► Ensure that you squish the tomato in your hand before you hurl it to avoid causing any injury.
► Always make way for the trucks entering the streets.
► Do not attempt to rip your own clothes or somebody else’s.
► Once the second signal is sent, the tomato hurling should be ceased immediately.
Facts and Figures
► Buñol is a small town located about 25 miles west of Valencia. Most international tourists prefer living in Valencia for the festival, and choose to take an early morning train to Buñol on the day of the fest itself.
► The 10,000-strong population of Buñol swells to around 50,000 on the day of the festival.
► Approximately 40 tons of tomatoes are used during the festivities. The crop is especially grown in the region of Extremadura for the festival.