This unusual festival started in 1945 when a fight broke out during a parade and the miscreants raided a market stall for tomatoes to throw at their opponents. The following year people brought their own tomatoes for a repeat battle, and from then it became a regular event.
Over the years the festival has been banned and reinstated, but nowadays the festival of La Tomatina is actively promoted by the Buñol City Hall as a tourist attraction.
The festival starts with the raising of a greased pole with a leg ham at the top. Whoever can figure out how to retrive the ham can keep it. After that the water cannon is fired. A truck drives slowly through the crowd dispensing tonnes of ripe tomatoes, grown specially for the event, and the fight begins.
After an hour or so the water cannon fires again and it’s all over. People clean up, perhaps by a dip in the river, before the journey home.
Several rules apply: you must not bring bottles, you must not break or throw T-shirts, you must squash the tomatoes before throwing them, you must beware of the tomato truck, and you must stop throwing tomatoes when the event is over.
Buñol is a small village of 9000 people, and another 20,000 or more arrive for La Tomatina. There’s little accommodation in the town, so most people travel by bus or train from Valencia, 38km away.
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