Tomatoes are famously known for being a good source of lycopene. It is an antioxidant that is good for the heart and the skin to name a few. And these benefits were put to good use by the Valencian town of Buñol through an event called La Tomatina.
The festival of La Tomatina is annually held in the town of Buñol in the region of Valencia located in the East of Spain with a 30 kilometer or 19-mile distance from the Mediterranean. It is being celebrated on the last day of August since 1945 within the week of festivities in Buñol at the main Plaza del Pueblo.
La Tomatina is Spain’s famous tomato battle and is the world’s biggest food fight. Before, the festival gathered a huge number of participants because of its popularity. But now the event is being ticketed since 2013 to limit the number of participants. Only 20,000 to 22,000 attendees can join the tomato fight every year. Among these, are five thousand residents of the town which will be given free access to the event while the remaining 17,000 attendees will need to pay €10 to be able to join.
There are also a few sets of rules to follow during the tomato fight to ensure the safety of the participants. Such as:
- No throwing of anything before the first signal and after the second signal.
- No throwing of bottles or any hard objects.
- No tearing of shirts.
- No bringing of selfie sticks.
- Tomatoes must be crushed or squashed to avoid hurting others.
La Tomatina is a festival with a full week of celebrations. Aside from the big tomato fight, there is also live music with different artists performing for the event, fireworks, and even cooking contests. Every year during this time, Buñol’s population of 9,000 people multiplies to a massive 40,000 to 50,000. Some tourists have local accommodations at the hotel or hostels while those that don’t usually commute and take the 6 AM train from Valencia to be able to take part in the celebration.
The festival begins early with the shop owners preparing beforehand by covering their stores with plastics. When the festival kicks off, the organizers will supply around 180,000 tomatoes which are estimated to be around 160 tonnes coming from the province of Extremadura. It will be brought into the main Plaza del Pueblo by about six trucks loaded with all the ripe tomatoes that will be used for throwing at each other.
The tomato fight starts at 11 in the morning and a signal will be given in the form of a firing rocket. Once the signal to begin is given, everyone can start scooping up tomatoes, crushing them and throwing at each other. The whole tomato fight continues for the next 60 minutes and will end at 12 noon at the signal of another rocket being set off. After this second signal, throwing of tomatoes is not allowed anymore.
Once the whole tomato throwing ends, the town’s cleaning brigade will set off to clean the town plaza by hosing down every tomato in sight. While the participants usually clean themselves in the river of Buñol.
The local government of Bruñol claims that the food fight has positive effects for the town as well as to the participants. It is because of the acid in the tomatoes which acts as a disinfectant. It is said to be an advantage for the participants because it will clean their skin from impurities as well as an advantage to the town because it will whiten the sidewalks and streets.
Advantageous or not, it sure is a one of a kind celebration from Spain which is more commonly known for its religious festivals.