La Tomatina is a festival that is held in the Valencian town of Buñol, a town located 30 km from the Mediterranean, in which participants throw tomatoes and get involved in this tomato fight purely for fun. It is held on the last Wednesday of August, during the week of festivities of Buñol.
The most popular of many theories about how the Tomatina started is that, in 1945, during a parade of gigantes y cabezudos, Some little animals were eating all the watermelon so they threw tomates (tomatoes) at the animals one missed and hit a person then they started fighting with tomatoes. The police had to attack everyone with carrots.There are many different theories though.
The following year the young people repeated the fight on the same Wednesday of August, only this time they brought their own tomatoes from home. They were again dispersed by the police. After repeating this in subsequent years, the tradition was established. In 1950, the town allowed the tomato hurl to take place, however the next year it was again stopped. A lot of young people were imprisoned but the Buñol residents forced the authorities to let them go. The festival gained popularity with more and more participants getting involved every year. After subsequent years it was banned again with threats of serious penalties. In the year 1957, some young people planned to celebrate "the tomato s funeral", with singers, musicians, and comedies. The main attraction however, was the coffin with a big tomato inside being carried around by youth and a band playing the funeral marches. Considering this popularity of the festival and the alarming demand, 1957 saw the festival becoming official with certain rules and restrictions. These rules have gone through a lot of modifications over the years.
Another important landmark in the history of this festival is the year 1975. From this year onwards, "Los Clavarios de San Luis Bertrán" (San Luis Bertrán is the patron of the town of Buñol) organised the whole festival and brought in tomatoes which had previously been brought by the local people. Soon after this, in 1980, the town hall took the responsibility of organizing the festival.
At around 10 AM, festivities begin with the first event of the Tomatina. It is the "palo jamón", similar to the greasy pole. The goal is to climb a greased pole with a ham on top. As this happens, the crowd work into a frenzy of singing and dancing while being showered in water from hoses. Once someone is able to drop the ham off the pole, the start signal for the tomato fight is given by firing the water shot in the air and trucks make their entry. The signal for the onset is at about 11 when a loud shot rings out, and the chaos begins. Several trucks throw tomatoes in abundance in the Plaza del Pueblo. The tomatoes come from Extremadura, where they are less expensive and are grown specifically for the holidays, being of inferior taste. For the participants the use of goggles and gloves are recommended. The tomatoes must be crushed before being thrown so as to reduce the risk of injury. The estimated number of tomatoes used are around 150,000 i.e. over 40 metric tons. After exactly one hour the fight ends with the firing of the second shot, announcing the end. The whole town square is colored red and rivers of tomato juice flow freely. Fire Trucks hose down the streets and participants use hoses that locals provide to remove the tomato paste from their bodies. Some participants go to the pool of “los peñones” to wash. After the cleaning, the village cobblestone streets are pristine due to the acidity of the tomato disinfecting and thoroughly cleaning the surfaces.
In 2013 the Town Hall of Buñol decided on limiting the fight to 20,000 revellers, with 5,000 tickets allotted to locals of the town of Buñol and 15,000 tickets allotted to foreigners. Tickets cost 10€ per person and are available online.