La Tomatina in Buñol
La Tomatina, or the tomato fight, is part of an annual gathering in Buñol, a small village of about 9,000 inhabitants in the Valencia Region on the Mediterranean coast. The rowdy and bizarre tradition takes place on the last Wednesday of August. During the observance, which has become one of the main attractions of Spain's ample festivities calendar, the number of visitors grows by the thousands.
The event itself takes place in the town square at midday and lasts for less than an hour. It consists of thousands of people assembled in the square. They, literally, throw ripe tomatoes at each other once someone climbs a greased pole, releasing a ham hock hung at the top of the pole. The tomatoes arrive to the battle scene by large trucks.
The origins of this weird fight are not clear, but one legend states that in 1945, a procession of enormous figures with giant heads, the Gigantes y Cabezudos, was passing through Buñol. Some enterprising youngsters, who had nothing to do with the procession tried to join in and one of them accidentally knocked a Giant over, who retaliated by lashing out and swinging at him. In self-defense, the youngster grabbed some tomatoes from a nearby stand and threw them at the giant...and the tradition of the tomato fight was born! Another version claims some friends got into a fight and started throwing tomatoes at each other.
Strict rules from the Buñol Town Council apply to today's tomato fighters: people cannot bring any bottles or other hard objects, which can cause bodily harm. Only crushed tomatoes are thrown. People must be careful to avoid the lorries, which bring the "ammunition." T-shirts, hats and cameras make a person an instant target. Those who have attended the fight also recommend bringing and wearing goggles. Tomato juice stings when it gets in the eyes.
At the end of the fight, revelers head to the nearby river to wash tomato drippings from their hair and clothing. Miraculously, there has never been an accident or mishap during this festival.