More than 22,000 people stained red in a battle full of fun and… balls. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, you’ve probably never come across La Tomatina, one of the most impactful festivals in Spain. In this post, we’ll explain exactly what happens during this fabulous festival, which takes place very close to Valencia.
Every year, on the last Wednesday of August, the small town of Buñol, only half an hour away from Valencia, is full of people and getting ready for the big tomato fight. Thousands of tourists wait (impatiently) for the arrival of 7 vans full of tomatoes (equal to 160,000kg), the shops close the blinds, the inhabitants close the windows facing the street, and when the signal sounds… chaos begins! People start throwing tomatoes everywhere and everywhere.
The rules are simple: get a tomato, smash it and throw it at anyone. It is recommended to wear comfortable clothes and shoes, which they don’t mind ruining, and, of course, goggles to protect their eyes. The fight lasts only an hour and is a lot of fun. Rivers of tomatoes run through the streets, people get soaked and everything is stained red. When the hour is up, another sign sounds like the battle of La Tomatina is over. After that, the firemen come to clean up the streets and life goes back to normal until next August.
Festivals in Spain: The Story of La Tomatina
The history of this festival is quite interesting. It is said that it all began on an August afternoon in 1945. A group of teenagers participating in the city’s summer festival followed the traditional parade of Giants and Big Heads. The boys decided to cause a stir and started pushing people around them. Finally, one of the parade’s participants fell to the ground and, full of anger, started punching everything in sight. Suddenly, he came across a vegetable stand and the fight started. The angry people of the city started throwing tomatoes until the police had to intervene to restore order.
The following year, the teenagers recreated the event. Although the police tried to stop “the fight,” it had already become a tradition and something fun. Although the festival was banned in the early 1950s, the city fought to have it reinstated. More and more people joined the fight and the festival was finally established as an official event.
In 1983, thanks to the coverage by reporter Javier Basilio broadcast by a Spanish television program, the festival began to spread throughout Spain. Since then, the number of participants has increased year after year until, in 2002, it was declared a Festival of Tourist Interest by the Spanish Secretary General of Tourism.