The Google doodle on August 25 caught the attention of millions of web surfers: the “Tomatina de Buñol” festival (Valencia Region) is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2015. One of Spain’s most striking festivals, along with San Fermín in Pamplona, is celebrating seven decades of tomato-powered warfare.
What is the festival all about? Fairly simple: participants wage war with tomatoes as their only weapon. Starting at 11am, every August 25 locals and visitors gather in the streets and throw this mature red fruit at everything that moves. There are rules, of course: you are not allowed to pull at or tear anyone’s t-shirt or any other type of garment during the festival. In order to avoid accidents, you cannot enter with hard objects or bottles; the tomatoes have to be crushed before throwing them at potential victims, so as not to harm anyone, and you must take care when the lorries transporting the tomatoes pass by.
An hour-long battle from the starting shot to midday. Sixty minutes of laughter, throwing mature tomatoes and small pitched battles.
How did the festival start?
Since this year is the seventieth anniversary, it is worth remembering what happened in the summer of 1945 in Buñol. According to experts, this is the most reliable version: The town square, where the Tomatina is held, was full of youths that wanted to see the “Giants and Bigheads” parade (featuring grotesque figures made of papier-mâché that are characteristic of traditional festivals). Some youths wanted to get closer to the parade to participate in it too. This spontaneous attempt angered some members of the parade, who tried to push the youths back. This struggle reached the actors wearing the masks of giants and bigheads. One of the participants fell down and, when he got up, he started fighting with the person next to him. By coincidence, there was a vegetable stall there with open boxes full of tomatoes and greens, which were used as ammunition for the fight. With tomatoes flying through the air, the police arrived and managed to stop the fight.
The following year, on the same Wednesday in August, the dispute was repeated, but this time the fighters came with a supply of tomatoes and, once again, they started fighting until the police broke them up. In view of this situation, the August festival was suspended but the locals still wanted to enjoy a fruity brawl and managed to continue fighting. In 1957, when the “Tomatina” could not be held, some youths planned a “burial of the tomato,” with singers, musicians and comedies. The town’s inhabitants paraded a giant coffin through the streets with an enormous tomato inside, followed by a funeral procession featuring wailers and a music band playing mournful marches.
In view of this display, the local authorities decided to allow the festival in 1959 under certain rules, such as, for example, limiting the duration of the battle by sounding firecrackers, which announce the beginning and end of the festival.
Starting in 2013, Buñol town council decided to limit the amount of festival participants in order to avoid overcrowding. Since then tickets are required in order to participate; these are purchased through an official distributor, thus ensuring a maximum of 22,000 participants (the festival’s attendance exceeded 45,000 on some occasions). Therefore, those attending the festival now enjoy greater comfort and safety.
To enjoy “La Tomatina”:
If you would like to combine this crazy festival with a sublime rest, El Secanet Boutique Hotel is a small traditional paradise in Algimia de Alafar, 45 minutes from Buñol and very close to the city of Valencia. You can discover more information about El Secanet here.