August end marks the beginning of the very famous annual Spanish festival, La Tomatina. Held in the Valencian town of Buñol, the colourful and messy festival involves participants throwing thousands and thousands of over-ripe tomatoes at each other.
This festival has been representative of how crazy and wacky Spanish festivals are (Bull Fighting, anyone?) and comes with some interesting beginnings and facts. Here’s a few things you should know:
1. It is the world’s largest food fight.
Yup, La Tomatina is a festival that leads up to the worlds largest state-sanctioned food fight. Every year, approximately 40,000 tomato enthusiasts descend on the tiny Mediterranean town of Buñol to pelt each other with tomatoes.
2. The festival comes with other ‘festivities’ too.
The week leading up to the massive slug-fest is adorned with massive parades, fireworks and even massive Paella cooking contests.
3. The food fight originated from a street brawl.
Back in 1945, during another La Tomatina festivity in Buñol, a street fight broke out when a participant started to pelt everyone with vegetables from a market stall nearby. This led to a whole bunch of people doing the same, a furious vegetable battle ensued, if you will. The following year, the same young people picked a quarrel on purpose and brought their own tomatoes. Although the police broke up the early tradition in the following years, with it being banned in the early 50’s, the vibe and popularity of the food fight lived on. By the town’s people’s wishes the tradition was brought back, this time more regulated.
4. A slice of ham marks the beginning of the fight.
Strangely, yes. Come 10 am on the day of Tomatina, a slice of ham is hung on the top of a greasy pole in the already crowded town square called the ‘palo jabón’. The goal is to climb and retrieve this slice of ham with the crowd chanting and singing in encouragement (while being showered by water hoses). The moment the slice of ham is dropped from the pole, a loud signal goes off, trucks loaded with tomatoes enter and then begins the chaos.
5. Over 40 metric tonnes of tomatoes are used.
In a fight that lasts for just an hour, around 150,000 tomatoes meet their fate. The tomatoes used are low- quality, inferior in taste and come cheap from a place called Extremadura.
6. It can turn into a battle of the sexes.
Often the fight turns into a playful battle between men and women present.
7. The tomatoes act as disinfectant.
Once the fights ends, fire-fighters wash the streets and people down with hoses. Surprisingly enough, the village streets look quite clean with the acidity of the tomato acting as disinfectant.
8. La Tomatina knock-offs.
There have been various re-creations of the festival in Nevada, Chicago, Costa Rica and Columbia. An attempt to recreate the festival in Bangalore, India, was met with harsh criticism over the ‘wastage of tomatoes’ that led to a ban of the event.
As kickass as La Tomatina continues to be year after year, Spain is notorious for hosting some of the most interesting festivals in the world. Get a lowdown on the 15 best right here, courtesy thecrazytourist.