La Tomatina, the Tomato War of Spain

La Tomatina is a tomato fight festival celebrated on the last Wednesday of August every year. It is the highlight of a week-long local festival held in the honour of the the Virgin Mary and the town’s patron saint, San Luis Bertràn.

La Tomatina by Graham McLellan/ CC BY

La Tomatina by Graham McLellan/ CC BY

The festival is held in the town of Bunol near Valencia in Spain. The population of Bunol is nearly 9000 and at the time of Tomatina, almost 40000 to 50000 people have been known to come here from all across the world. But, since 2013 official tickets have been introduced to limit the number of participants to 20,000.

History of La Tomatina

The first Tomatina was held in 1945, but no one seems to know how it all started. Some say it began as a fight amongst some friends, while others claim it all started at an anti-Franco rally. A vegetable stall is the common element of every story! It is said that people pelted each other with tomatoes from this stall. This practice was suppressed by the authorities initially, but in 1959 they eventually got into the spirit of the festival and became a part of it.

Funny Fight at La Tomatina

On the day of the great tomato battle, local shopkeepers thoroughly cover the windows of their shops with plastic sheets and thousands of locals and tourists come out on the streets, and so do trucks loaded with around 125,000 kilos of ripe tomatoes. Between 11am and 1pm, the streets are flooded with squashed tomatoes and tomato juice; footways are splashed with pulp and puree; and the participants are covered in red. Water cannons are fired to signal the start of the great tomato war.  Once the fight begins, it’s with everybody and for everybody; because every person after a few minutes looks the same–covered in squashed tomatoes.

Tomatina Tickets

Until a few years ago people in large numbers were coming from all the parts of the world to participate in the festival. In fact, the numbers started swelling to around 50,000. This caused security concerns as Bunol is a very small place and finally the town council of Bunol limited the number of participants to 20,000 by issuing tickets to the ones wishing to take part in the festival. A ticket costs nearly €10 and can be easily reserved online. Alternatively, you can also book an all inclusive, organised tour package to enjoy the La Tomatina.