On the last Wednesday of August every year, a little town known as Buñol is transformed into a unique scenario, where fun and food lovers unite, with only one thing on their mind… Tomato fight!
Though some might say it´s just a waste of food, others see the event steeped in culture. In fact, the Spanish government has even approved an application for the event to be submitted as a candidate to be recognised as an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
If, by some strange occurrence, you´ve never heard of Tomatina, or even if you have, you might not realise it´s an historic event, when it began on the last Wednesday of August, 1945, as young people gathered in the town square to attend the “Giants and Big-Heads” parade.
Not content with just watching the parade pass, a group of youngsters decided to take part themselves, trying to disturb the parade, until one participant fell off.
In a fit of rage, the young man started to hit everything in his path. There was a market stall of vegetable that fell victim to the now furious crowd, and people started to pelt each other with tomatoes until it ended with a full on vegetable battle.
The following year, the young people decided to repeat the performance, but rather than rely on the local produce on the market stall, they brought the tomatoes from home. Although the police broke up the proceedings in the early life of the tradition, those young boys had made history, without even realising it.
La Tomatina was banned in the early 50s, which was not a problem for the participants who were so insistent, some were even arrested. But the voice of the people was finally heard and the festivity was again allowed to take place, now with more participants and more frenetic feelings.
The festivity was again cancelled till 1957 when, as a sign of protest, a tomato burial was held. It was a demonstration in which the residents carried a coffin with a huge tomato inside. The parade was accompanied by a band which played funeral march. Of course, as we now know, the protest again worked and La Tomatina Festival eventually received recognition and was finally allowed to take place as an official event.
The event then caught the attention of Spanish national TV, which in turn raised awareness across the country, and thus the number of participants increased year after year as well as the excitement about La Tomatina Festival.
In 2002, La Tomatina of Buñol was declared a Festivity of International Tourist Interest by the Spanish tourism department and is now, hopefully, set to be recognised worldwide as an envent of international cultural interest.
La Tomatina 2018 will take place on August 29, and is now a ticket only event, mostly to maintain some kind of control over the number of attendees. Tickets are just 12€, and must be purchased in advance, which you can do from the official website, latomatina.info/en/, which is available in English.
Take a look, book, and prepare to be tomatoised. We know that´s not a word, but if tomato-throwing kinds can do it, maybe one day we´ll go down in history for creating a word at least.