There can be no doubt in saying that the Spanish know how to have a good time, and annual food-fight craziness La Tomatina is surely one of the best examples.
The infamous tomato-throwing fight has been held annually since 1945 in the small town of Buñol near the city of Valencia on Spain’s east coast. It is always held on the last Wednesday of August; this year it will be held on August 28th.
The exact nature of the dispute that led to this infamous tomato-throwing spectacle has been somewhat muddled with time. Its beginnings have been attributed simply to young people having a food fight, a protest by townspeople against local councillors, or even the chaotic aftermath of an overturned vegetable lorry.
Most people refer to the event starting in 1945 during the traditional ‘Giants and Big-Heads’ parade. A fight broke out amongst young people in the Plaza del Pueblo, possibly between spectators and participants of the parade. Someone grabbed a couple of tomatoes from a nearby stall to throw at their opponent and before long the air was thick with flying vegetables.
Once tempers were settled, the instigators of the tomato fight decided to hold another fight the following year, this time using their own tomatoes. And so the tomato fight has persisted throughout the years, surviving several bannings in the 1950s to become an official celebration that attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Let the Fight Begin
Before the fight can start, participants must first knock down a ham from the top of a greased pole. Only once the ham has been retrieved can the fight begin, marked by the first pistol shot and the throwing of tomatoes. After one hour a second pistol shot marks the end of the fight, and the clean-up crew moves in with water hoses.
Last year, 125 tons of over-ripe tomatoes were used during La Tomatina, thrown by around 45,000 participants. In a bid to ensure the safety of those taking part, this year’s tomato fight will be restricted to 20,000 participants – 5,000 local residents and 15,000 visitors.
In the Region
Aside from tomatoes, the region of Valencia is famous for being the birthplace of the paella. This typical Spanish dish is said to have originated from the area north of the city of Valencia, and trying a good paella is a must for anyone visiting this part of Spain. Traditionally, paella is eaten as lunch in the middle of the day rather than dinner due to the heavy mix of rice and seafood or chicken.
Market-lovers should definitely not miss Valencia’s Mercat Central indoor market, reputedly one of the oldest of its kind in Europe. The market is held inside a beautiful 1920s-style masterpiece of Valencian architecture complete with domes, ironwork and glass, and is packed to the brim with fresh local produce. Open every day except Sunday, from 7:30am to 2:30pm.