Background and History
Before going into detail about the famous and very loca Tomatina festival, some background is needed:
The Spanish LOVE to eat tomatoes and according to Fruittoday Euromagazine, they eat 17 kilos per person annually! As with all Mediterranean cuisines, the tomato is an essential ingredient of Spanish cooking. The Spanish eat tomatoes every day and prepare them in a variety of ways, including fresh, crushed, stewed or simmered in a sauce. Tomato sauce is served on the side with fried eggs, chicken, meat and omelets at most Spanish dinner tables.
Since one of the principal tomato-growing regions of Spain is the southeast, including Murcia and Valencia, it seems appropriate that the famous tomato fight takes place in Buñol, just west of the capital city of Valencia.
It's not too hard to understand that La Tomatina festival started by accident. According to all accounts, there was a parade and festival in Buñol on the last Wednesday of August of 1945 when a fight broke out between some young men. Taking advantage of a nearby fruit and vegetable vendor’s stall, they threw tomatoes at each other. The police broke up the altercation and those responsible ended up paying restitution to the tomato vendor.
Apparently planning ahead, the following year the young people brought tomatoes with them to the parade and started a tomato fight again. Each year the fight continued until the early 1950’s when it was prohibited by order of the town council, but some townsfolk insisted on creating a fight and were thrown in jail. Protests ensued, including a “Tomato Funeral” and finally, in 1957 the town council allowed the fight to continue. In fact, since 1980 the city government has provided the tomatoes!
La Tomatina Today
The celebration continue to take place on the last Wednesday in August in the plaza mayor of Buñol. The tomatina starts at 11:00am with the sound of a rocket being fired and ends one hour later. Last year 40,000 people were expected to participate in throwing over 100 tons of ripe tomatoes in the streets and this year even more are expected.
Rules of the “Fight”
According to La Tomatina’s official web site, there are five simple rules that must be followed. They seem to be common sense to ensure the safety of participants, or as stated on the web page "are simple rules of civic responsibility and cohabitation.” Below are the official rules almost verbatim:
- You must not bring bottles or other type of objects which could cause an accident.
- You must not tear or throw t-shirts.
- The tomatoes must be squashed before throwing them, to avoid hurting people.
- You must be careful of any lorry (truck or van).
- When you hear the second shot, you must stop throwing tomatoes.
More Information on La Tomatina
Official Web Page of La Tomatina - Buñol, (Valencia) Spain. This site has lots of information on the festival including tips on what to wear and lots of photos of participants going crazy in the streets!
Spanish Tomato Recipes
Even if you can't attend the festival, celebrate anyway! Prepare a Spanish recipe with tomatoes:
- Tomato - Essential Ingredient in Spanish Cuisine for a list of Spanish tomato recipes.