La Tomatina is a festival that is held in the Valencian town of Buñol, a town located in the East of Spain 30 km / 19 miles from the Mediterranean, in which participants throw tomatoes and get involved in this tomato fight purely for entertainment purposes. Since 1945 It has been held on the last Wednesday of August, during the week of festivities of Buñol.
La Tomatina started on the last Wednesday of August in 1945 (29th August 1945) when some young people went to the town square to attend the Giants and Big-Head figures parade. They decided to join the parade with a musician. The group’s excitement caused a person to fall from the float. The participant flew into a fit of rage and started to hit everything in his path. There was a market stall of vegetables that fell victim to what soon became a furious crowd. People started to pelt each other with tomatoes until local law enforcement ended the battle.
Preparing the “palo jabón”.
The following year the young people deliberately repeated the fight on the last Wednesday of August, only this time they brought their own tomatoes from home. They were again dispersed by the police. The food fight became an annual event. In 1950, the town allowed the tomato hurl to take place, but the next year it was stopped again. Many young people were imprisoned but Buñol residents forced authorities to let them go.
The festival gained popularity with more and more participants every year. In subsequent years it was banned again with threats of serious penalties. In the year 1957, some young people celebrated “the tomato’s funeral”, with singers, musicians, and comedies. The main attraction however, was a big tomato in a coffin carried around while a band played funeral marches. In 1957, demand for the popular festival led to its becoming official, with certain rules and restrictions. These rules have gone through many modifications over the years.
Another important landmark in the history of this festival is the year 1975. From this year on wards, “Los Clavarios de San Luis Bertrán” (San Luis Bertrán is the patron of the town of Buñol) organized the whole festival and brought in the tomatoes, which had previously been brought by the local people. Soon after this, in 1980, the town council took over responsibility for organizing the festival.
Since then, the number of participants has increased year after year as well as the excitement about La Tomatina Festival. In 2002, in the month of August La Tomatina of Buñol was declared a Festivity of International Tourist Interest by the Secretary Department of Tourism due to its success. In 2013, town officials introduced an entry fee and limited the number of participants, citing concerns over safety.
Throwing tomatoes from a truck.
The fight lasts for an hour, after which the whole town square is covered with tomato paste. Fire trucks hose down the streets and participants use hoses that locals provide to remove the tomato paste from their bodies. Some participants go to the pool of “los peñones” to wash. After the cleaning, the village cobblestone streets are pristine due to the acidity of the tomato disinfecting and thoroughly cleaning the surfaces.
Since 2013, the capacity of La Tomatina is regulated by selling tickets for the event, a measure that “guarantees the sustainability of the party, better security and [more] fun for the attenders ”. In 2015, it is estimated that almost 145000 kg of tomatoes will be thrown. As with previous years, participants of many nationalities are expected.
Rules of the festival
The city council follows a short list of instructions for the safety of the participants and the festival:
1. The tomatoes have to be squashed before throwing to avoid injuries.
2. No other projectiles except tomatoes are allowed.
3. Participants have to make way for trucks and lorries.
4. After the second shot indicative of ending the tomato hurl, no tomatoes should be thrown.
In other countries
La Tomatina Buñol has inspired similar celebrations in other parts of the world:
• Since 1982, the town of Twin Lakes, Lake County, Colorado has held a tomato fight called the “Colorado Texas Tomato War,” in which Texans and Coloradans square off with tomatoes; the Coloradans also attempt to overtake the Texans’ straw Alamo effigy, generally succeeding.
• Since 2004 the Colombian town of Sutamarchán holds a similar event on 15 June when a surplus of tomatoes is harvested.
• In Costa Rica the town of San José de Trojas (Valverde Vega Canton) celebrates a tomatine during the local Tomato Fair.
• In the town of Dongguan in southern Guangdong province in China, a tomato fight is held on 19 October, during which they use up to 15 tons of tomatoes.
• The City of Reno, Nevada in the United States also has an annual hour-long tomato fight that started in 2009. The event seems to take place on the last Sunday of August and is organized by the American Cancer Society. Organizers named the festival La Tomatina, and give full credit for the idea to the Spanish festival.
• On February 12, 2011, at the field of Esparraguera, town of Quillón, VIIIth Region, Chile, the first version of the Great Tomato War was held under the auspices of the local municipality and a private firm. Like the Spanish Tomatina, it was a playful battle involving young people.
• Milwaukee’s East Side Association holds an annual Tomato Romp during September in coordination with a Bloody Mary drink contest. Held since at least 2009 it is limited to 250 people in a caged-in area.
• Funtasia Island, Patna hosted a similar La tomatina Holi event on March 26, 2013 at Funtasia Water Park in Patna, India.
• On July 27, 2013 the city of Chicago held a moderately sized tomato fight called the “tomato blast ” in homage to the tomatina.
• Frederick, MD hosted a similar “Tomato bash!” event on August 3, 2013 at the E-vent Plex Frederick Fairgrounds.