What does La Tomatina mean

La Tomatina - the tomato festival in Spain + spectacular facts

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Every year on the last Wednesday in August, the streets in the Spanish province of Buñol turn red. The reason for this is the festival “La Tomatina”, the so-called tomato festival, during which the residents and numerous tourists throw overripe tomatoes at each other. Meanwhile, the Spanish festival inspires people from all over the world and is at the same time an enormous source of income for the small village. Rightly so, because people of all ages, regardless of their origin, can let off steam at the spectacle.

History of the creation of La Tomatina

Although La Tomatina has been celebrated for around 70 years, the exact history of this tradition is still unclear. The fact is, however, that the festival has no religious background and it is also not intended to represent thanks to the harvest. Nevertheless, there are numerous myths about the origin of the tomato festival, which all had one thing in common: The residents of the village of Buñol threw tomatoes at themselves. The reasons for this vary depending on the tradition, but the most common myths include:

The village brawl

  • in 1945 there was a considerable scuffle in the village
  • which developed into a mass brawl within a very short time
  • the scuffle took place near the market
  • that's why those involved started throwing tomatoes at each other

The bad kids

  • Teenagers annoyed a street musician
  • he got so angry
  • that he pelted everything and everyone that got in his way with tomatoes

Protest by young people

  • Young people pelt tomatoes at a parade
  • because they were excluded from the event
  • and wanted to protest against it by throwing the tomatoes

The pathetic street musician

  • a street musician strolled through the streets making music
  • a group of youngsters threw vegetables at him
  • because his performance was extremely pathetic
  • more and more villagers took part

Jostling at the Buñol Patronage Festival

  • Young people mingled with the festival committee
  • one of the men fell through the crowd
  • this created a huge scramble
  • People pelted the tomatoes

As different as the stories of its origins may be, the residents obviously had fun with what was happening. The spectacle was talked about for a long time and repeated in the years that followed until it finally became a custom. In the meantime, the tomato festival was banned under the Franco dictatorship in the mid-1950s to avoid further unrest in the village. The participants were even arrested at the time, whereupon the residents of the village protested:

  • the residents walked through the streets in a funeral procession
  • they carried a coffin with a huge tomato in it
  • Street musicians played funeral marches

In 1957 the tomato festival was allowed again and has been an integral part of community life ever since. The spectacle achieved its great fame in 1980 when it became known throughout Spain through a television report. In 2002 it was even declared a “Festival of International” interest, and rightly so, because La Tomatina attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year. In the meantime, the tomato festival has even been registered and awarded as its own brand.

What exactly happens at La Tomatina?

Although the spectacle seems chaotic to outsiders, the tomato festival is subject to a strict process with fixed rules. Already at 10 am the participants gather in the center of the city on the Plaza del Pubelo, because this is where the forerunner of the tomato festival, the so-called “palo jabón”, takes place. This spectacle is translated as “hamster” and proceeds as follows:

  • Ham is attached to a tree about 10 meters high
  • the ham is called “jamón”
  • the tree is lathered
  • Participants try to climb the tree
  • and to get hold of the ham

The extremely entertaining event is accompanied by the audience with song and dance. In addition, the cheering audience will be splashed with water, which will additionally “heat up” them. The actual tomato festival does not start until the ham has been snatched, and then begins with the chimes of the church at 11 a.m. Then the tomato festival starts and runs as follows:

  • Trucks roll through the streets
  • to dump the overripe tomatoes
  • Participants throw tomatoes at each other
  • after exactly one hour it is over

At 12 o'clock sharp, another signal sounds, which heralds the end of the tomato festival. At this point, no more tomatoes are allowed to be thrown, which is strictly controlled by the police. Afterwards, fire engines with hoses are ready to clean the streets. The residents as well as the participants help together and free the streets from the leftovers together. Mobile showers are also available for tourists at the train station so that they can shower off. Many residents also spray tourists with their hoses to clean them of the tomato remains.

After party of the tomato festival

After the tomato festival, it's far from over, because after the spectacle it's off to the neighboring city of Valencia, where numerous clubs host the after-party. Those who like to party can end their eventful day together until the late hours of the night. For this, tickets are usually also required, some of which are included in the packages.

Rules of the tomato festival

To ensure that the spectacle is as safe as possible for everyone involved, there are firm rules for the tomato festival. These must be strictly observed in order to protect yourself and others from injury. Therefore, the participants must adhere to the following code of ethics:

  • the tomatoes have to be crushed in your hand before throwing them
  • so that the impact does not cause injuries
  • don't shoot too hard
  • It is forbidden to take bottles or hard objects with you
  • T-shirts must not be torn or thrown
  • the distance to the trucks must be strictly observed
  • at 12 o'clock, after the final signal it is over
  • anyone who throws tomatoes afterwards is against the code of honor

Tips for the tomato festival

For all those who have become curious, the following applies: The tomato festival should never be attended unprepared, as this can lead to unpleasant surprises. If you want to take part in the tomato festival, you should definitely book your accommodation in good time; hostels and hotels in the neighboring city of Valencia are ideal for this. In addition, it should be noted that it is only possible to arrive by car until 7 a.m. Because then the entire village is closed to cars. The following guide has proven itself for the tomato festival itself:

  • it is essential to wear sturdy shoes
  • because flip-flops can get lost
  • and can lead to injuries due to the slippery surface
  • ideally wear old clothes, because the tomato stains are very stubborn
  • a white T-shirt is a “must”, but it is not a requirement
  • Because of the high temperatures, swimwear is also suitable
  • Wear diving or swimming goggles
  • because the acidity of tomatoes stings your eyes
  • Leave your cell phone or camera at home
  • use a disposable camera for photos

In addition, participants are advised not to climb pillars or pillars. On the one hand, those involved would declare themselves a target and, on the other hand, the risk of injury is of course extremely high, as everything is very slippery due to the tomatoes.

Interesting facts about the tomato festival

Not only the participants, but also the residents prepare for the tomato festival every year. Many shopkeepers protect their stores from the tomatoes by covering the panes with nets and plastic sheeting. The projectiles are also specially planted in a place called Extremadura for the tomato festival. The fruits are only suitable for consumption to a limited extent, as they are not particularly good in taste, but they are comparatively cheap to buy. The spectacle attracts thousands of enthusiasts from all over the world every year:

  • the average age of the participants is between 18 and 35 years
  • the oldest participant was 82 years old
  • most of the tourists come from Australia, England, Japan and the USA
  • Tomato consumption: about 125 tons of tomatoes
  • In 2004 the Tomato Festival was included in the Guinness Book of Records
  • Until the mid-1970s, participants had to bring their own tomatoes
  • since 1980 the town hall has taken over the organization of the tomato festival

La Tomatina as a source of income

In 2012 the small village was overrun by participants during the festival, which is why the number of participants was limited to 22,000 in the following year. Since then, interested parties have had to purchase one of the coveted tickets, which are priced at around 10 euros. On the one hand, the income covers the costs for the tomatoes and, on the other hand, ticket sales make the state treasury ring. The tickets are available in different variations, right up to entire packages. In summary, the following should be noted with the tickets:

  • a ticket costs around 10 euros
  • there are all inclusive packages
  • these include, among other things, hotel accommodation, city tours and admission
  • a total of 22,000 tickets are available
  • 5,000 of which are reserved for residents
  • the residents receive the tickets free of charge

La Tomatina worldwide

The tomato festival inspires numerous people worldwide, which is why it has already found imitators in various cities. The imitation festivals do not come close to the number of participants of the original, but they are manageable and mostly very moral. If you want to pay a visit to La Tomatina away from Spain, you can do so in the following cities, for example:

  • San José de Trojas in Costa Rica, in February
  • Donnguan in China on October 19th
  • Sutamarchán in Colombia, since 2004 on June 15th
  • Reno in Nevada, since 2009

In addition, more and more Spanish cities want to build on the success story of the tomato festival and try to market their own festivals as tourist spectacles. The most famous festivals include:

Boloencierro

  • takes place in the Spanish city of Mataelpino
  • this is an alternative form of bull hunting
  • instead of a bull, there is a huge styrofoam ball
  • this weighs around 200 kilos
  • those involved run down the streets in front of the ball

Wine battle

  • in the northern Spanish village of Haro
  • Residents water each other with grape juice in June
  • for this they use water guns, buckets and water hoses
  • around 75,000 liters of grape juice flow in the process