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Wednesday, March 7, 2012 (read 14766 times)

La Tomatina Spanish Festival

by Jose

Buñol is Spanish town famous for a world renowned tomato fight festival known as “La Tomatina”.

Valencia, on the east coast of Spain, is a sunny Mediterranean city famous for its long sandy beaches and delicious oranges.  Buñol, another city nearby located just 30 miles away in the same province is also very famous for its produce, particularly for its tomatoes.  The curious thing, however, is that the small town’s notoriety does not stem from the quality of its tomatoes but rather their interesting custom of “bathing” in it.

Buñol is famous around the globe for its “La Tomatina” festival which is essentially the world’s largest tomato fight. The famous tomato throwing battle is held once a year on the last Wednesday of August during the town’s one week festival.

The Tomatina festival stared in the 1940s when a group of the town’s residents started a tomato fight in the town square. The tomato battle erupted and soon random pedestrians and other town people were drawn into the battle which culminated in a large food fight.  When everything was said and done, the villagers had had such a fun time that they decided to celebrate the tomato fight the next year.  From this day forward, the Tomatina festival has been an annual event, growing in size and popularity into the major tourist attraction of national interest that it is today in Spain.

The town of Buñol in Valencia celebrates their patron saint for a full week with a variety of events including parades, fireworks, food stands and street parties.  Paella cooking contests, wine and food are abundant as the town prepares for its famous tomato fight.

As the Tomatina tomato fight approaches, the town’s Medieval bell tower is filled with tomatoes.  The tomatoes are specially grown for the festival and are said to not be of food grade quality. When the last Wednesday of August arrives, shopkeepers and other business owners with establishments near the main square cover their windows and doors in preparation for the messy tomato event.

The next step in La Tomatina festival is the arrival of the large trucks that slowly make their way up the cobblestone streets of Buñol filled with squishy ripe tomatoes on route to the town square where masses of people are awaiting the official start of the festival. However, before they can enter the main square, someone must overcome the test of the “palo jabón” or greasy pole.  The goal is for someone to climb a large greased pole to knock the ham that is hanging on top to the ground.  Meanwhile, the crowd below sings, dances and is sprayed with water from hoses. When someone achieves the feat, a fire is shot into the air and the tomato trucks enter the town square.  

A final shot rings out and the world’s largest tomato battle begins as the trucks offload their tomatoes into the Plaza del Pueblo. The Buñol tomato fight lasts about one hour with about 20,000 participants who generally use approximately 150,000 tomatoes, covering the whole city center and everyone nearby in red tomato sauce.

After the event, fire trucks, participants and villagers work to clean the town center with hoses and abundant water.  The result is actually a pristine shine to the cobblestone streets which are disinfected and thoroughly cleansed due to the acidity of the tomato sauce.

The Buñol Tomatina festival is an event worth witnessing and participating in at least once in your lifetime. However, we recommend that you plan ahead, the small town only offers so much accommodation and the hotels in all the surrounding areas quickly fill up as the event draws near.

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Posted In: Spain, Tourism, Culture


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