Today you are about to dip into a cultural yet interesting and “funny” reading (and food related, as always!). Let’s talk about La Tomatina!
Would you believe that a town of only about 9,000 people could host the world’s largest food fight? Buñol, a small town in the province of Valencia, Spain, has held upwards of 50,000 people during La Tomatina, an annual food fight festival. Each August, people swarm to the area in hopes of participating in this renowned event, but what exactly is this celebration about? What started the fun and why has it continued for half a century?
Because Buñol is such a small town, most people end up staying in Valencia and taking a train there in the morning. If you’re looking to live in Valencia, check out a shared flat in the city. Having a room in one of these is a great way to make friends, learn the language, and participate in the culture of the area! Plan to take these new friends of yours to Buñol for some fun in the famous food fighting frenzy.
The origin of this one-of-a-kind festival is difficult to pin down. One legend says that a few young men accidentally started the event on a Wednesday in 1945 when they attended a Giants and Big-Head parade. In their excitement they jostled a participant, knocking his big-head off, and angering him to the point of wildly hitting things around him. This quickly led to others around him grabbing vegetables from a nearby market stall and launching them towards him, and others in the crowd. Another popular legend says it spawned from angry businessmen and civilians chucking vegetables at passing unpopular councilman. Whatever started the fight, it is said that the next year, young boys brought their own veggies to the same spot and started a food fight just for fun.
Somehow, this random act of violence became an annual event of recreation. After its formation, the throwing of tomatoes was officially banned in 1950. For 7 years, people who tried to participate in the event were shut down and occasionally jailed. In 1957, the youth of the city held a protest of the ban, celebrating a mock funeral where they carried a coffin full of tomatoes through the city center to the sound of musicians playing somber funeral tunes throughout the streets. Somehow, this protest worked, and the ban was eventually lifted! Until the 1980s, this festival was celebrated solely by locals, but after a news report of the event, it became popular through all of Spain. At its height, nearly 50,000 people paraded through the streets of Buñol, flinging tomatoes at each other, but recently, a maximum of only 20,000 participants have been allowed. Tickets must now be bought in order to enter the city center where the event takes place.
Whether you go to get out some anger from work or class, or just to have some fun, you should probably know what you’re getting into. Though the actual fight is the most well-known event of the festival, celebrations actually go on for the entire week of the event. Music is played in the streets and food is plentiful. On Wednesday, the tomato fight doesn’t officially begin until someone is able to climb a 2-story tall greased pole and grab the ham at its top. Once this prize is collected, the signal is given and the fight begins. Thousands of people walk through the streets in now red clothes, dripping in seeds and tomato remnants. After an hour, another signal is given and the fighting ends, but the cleanup begins. Firetrucks move through the streets, spraying down the tomato detriment and locals bring out their hoses, spraying down participants.
La Tomatina is an event you will never forget. The memories you could make here as a student or young worker are definitely worth the trouble it might take to get there. If you are still looking for an accommodation in Valencia, make sure to look at a shared flat in the area. For help finding the perfect location in the city for you, check out our talks of the neighborhoods you can find in the city. Thanks for reading our blog today! If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment for us here.
Your helpMadrid Team