is a food fight festival
held on the last Wednesday of August each year in the town of Buñol
in the Valencia
region of Spain
. Tens of thousands of participants come from all over the world to fight in a brutal battle where more than one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes
are thrown in the streets.
The week-long festival features music, parades, dancing, and fireworks.
On the night before the tomato fight, participants of the festival compete in a paella cooking contest.
Approximately 20,000–40,000 tourists come to the tomato fight, multiplying by several times Buñol's normal population of 9,000. There is limited accommodation for people who come to La Tomatina, and thus many participants stay in Valencia and travel by bus or train to Buñol, about 38 km outside the city. In preparation for the dirty mess that will ensue, shopkeepers use huge plastic covers on their storefronts in order to protect them from the carnage.
At around 10 a.m., the first event of the Tomatina begins. Many trucks haul the bounty of tomatoes into the center of the town, Plaza del Pueblo. The tomatoes come from Extremadura
, where they are less expensive. Technically the festival does not begin until one brave soul has climbed to the top of a two-story high, greased-up wooden pole and reached the coveted ham at the top. In practice this process takes a long time and the festival starts despite no one reaching the meaty prize. The signal for the beginning of the fight is firing of water cannons, and the chaos begins. Once it begins, the battle is generally every man for himself. Those who partake in this event are strongly encouraged to wear protective safety goggles
. In addition, they must squish the tomatoes before throwing for safety precautions. Another rule is that no one is allowed to bring into this fight anything that may provoke someone into a more serious brawl, such as a glass bottle. Although it is forbidden to tear someone else's clothing, the crowd tends to ignore this and invariably will rip the shirt of any clothed person, man or woman. After exactly one hour, the fighting ends when the water cannons are fired once more to signal the end. At this point, no more tomatoes can be thrown. The cleaning process involves the use of fire trucks
to spray down the streets, with water provided from a Roman aqueduct
. The authorities seem more concerned with cleaning the town than cleaning the visitors, so some people find water at the Buñol River
to wash themselves, although some kind residents will hose passers-by down.
Once the tomato pulp is flushed, the ground is clean due to the acidity of the tomato.
The festival is in honor of the town's patron saints
, St. Louis Bertrand
(San Luis Bertràn
) and the Mare de Déu dels Desemparats
(Mother of God of the Defenseless), a title of the Virgin Mary
The tomato fight has been a strong tradition in Buñol since 1944 or 1945. No one is completely certain how this event originated. Possible theories on how the Tomatina began include a local food fight among friends, a juvenile class war, a volley of tomatoes from bystanders at a carnival parade, a practical joke on a bad musician, and the anarchic aftermath of an accidental lorry spillage. One of the most popular theories is that disgruntled townspeople attacked city councilmen with tomatoes during a town celebration. Whatever happened to begin the tradition, it was enjoyed so much that it was repeated the next year, and the year after that, and so on. The holiday was banned during the Spanish State period under Francisco Franco for having no religious significance, but returned in the 1970s after his demise.