The city of Valencia has a lot of interesting festivals and celebrations. One of their most popular events is called the Las Fallas festival. However, foodies and local citizens also can’t wait for another special occasion called La Tomatina. During this joyous event, people will gather around and throw tomatoes in the street. They’ll get engaged in some fun tomato fights all day long.
Although the annual celebration of La Tomatina is so fun, it has a rather unique beginning. We’re not going to spoil the party now (because you can read more about it later on). But since its inception in 1945, it has gained a lot of attention and interest from people all around the world. After being suspended for a couple of years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, La Tomatina festival is set to make its comeback this year. If you’re excited to participate, please take a look at some of the most interesting facts about La Tomatina that you should know!
1. The Festival Has a Unique and Somewhat Blurry Origin Story
The idea of having an annual food fight seems crazy. However, this iconic celebration first started because of some incident that can be dated back to the year of 1945. It all started during a local religious parade in People’s Square. Back then, the parade featured some giants and big-heads figures. At one point in the parade, a group of teenage youths decided to intervene in the parade and get involved in some pre-planned food fight.
However, there are other different versions to the origin story of La Tomatina. Some people argued that the food fight was started due to a disgust shown towards a singer who performed poorly during the festival. Another version said that the food fight began when people started expressing their discontent towards civic leaders outside the city hall.
Bunol is quite a small city. That’s the reason why we may never know the true origin of the event. However, it doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy it every year, right?
2. The Festival Met Some Rough Patches Along the Way
Although the tradition of throwing tomatoes is popular among the citizens, some of the local authorities viewed it as a waste of time and resources. In fact, the festival was banned in the 1950s by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Franco deemed the festival as a surplus as it has no significant religious value.
The ban doesn’t stop young people from organizing the event. Eventually, they were all arrested. In 1957, the people had enough and held a protest in the form of a tomato burial, in which a huge tomato was put inside a coffin and carried through the whole city. Soon after, the government gave up and lifted the ban.
3. In 2020, La Tomatina Met the Same Fate
After the ban for La Tomatina was canceled, it was soon considered as a national festival. Since then, it has been held annually in the city of Bunol. Unfortunately, the event has been suspended since 2020. This time, it was for a good reason. As fun as La Tomatina can be, it can also be a vulnerable place to contract the COVID-19 disease. Therefore, the officials decided to suspend any plans for La Tomatina.
But don’t give up hope yet! To celebrate its 75th anniversary, the 2022 La Tomatina festival has been officially sanctioned by the local government. For those of you who are eager to join and feel the experience of this awesome festival, tickets are already on sale! The La Tomatina festival was supposed to be celebrated during the last Wednesday of August. This time around, it’ll be celebrated on August 31st.
4. Javier Basilio is the Man We Need to Thank
La Tomatina has gained a lot of worldwide interest. It really is a unique event that can be celebrated by people from all around the world. For that matter, we need to owe it to a journalist by the name of Javier Basilio. He was a broadcaster for a Spanish television program called Informe Semanal. Due to a single coverage he made in 1983, the enthusiasm for La Tomatina grew over the years. Back then, he made a 15-minute special coverage to the event, where he interviewed local citizens and other people who are participating in the La Tomatina festival.
5. Make Sure to Stick Around After the Main Event
Although the main highlight of the La Tomatina festival is the tomato fight, there are still more events that we can enjoy. In fact, there are a lot of awesome events and parties for the whole week. During the week-long celebration, there is music, dancing, parades, and even fireworks. A paella cooking competition was also held during the night before the main event. The La Tomatina after party is also something to look out for. After the main event is done, people will gather at a venue outside of Valencia. The party will begin at around 7pm until 5am.
6. Where Did They Get the Tomatoes From?
There are a lot of tomatoes used for a single La Tomatina food fight. But it’s even crazier to know that all of the tomatoes were taken from the same place each year. To be exact, the place that we’re referring to is Extremadura, a western Spanish region bordering Portugal. It is one of the main cultivation areas for tomatoes in Spain. Besides that, the price for tomatoes there is cheaper compared to other cultivation areas. Those tomatoes will be hauled by trucks and transported in time for the annual La Tomatina.
7. What Happens to the Tomato Wastes?
Throwing tomatoes and having fun fighting is one thing, but cleaning it is anything but! In fact, there are approximately 100 kgs of tomato waste after the food war ended. When you look at the number, it’s natural to think that it would all go to waste. Thankfully, that’s not the case at all. In fact, officials have partnered up with Veolia to make sure that all wastes will be collected for reprocessing at an anaerobic digestion plant! Those tomato wastes will then be used to power up the National Grid as well as providing fertilizer on local farms.
8. How Much Tomatoes Were Used on Average?
Even if the La Tomatina main event is only done for an hour, it doesn’t mean that the necessary resources used are only minimal. In fact, it is said that on average, approximately 120 metric tons of tomatoes are used every year for this event. Another statistical data showed that the total weight of tomatoes that were thrown during the event is 200,000 pounds! It just goes to show that people are really going all out during this particular food fight, right? After the battle is over, fire trucks will be there to assist in the cleaning of the streets, while people can wash themselves on a river nearby.
9. La Tomatina Draws a Lot of Complains All Around the World
The revelation of using 200,000 pounds of tomatoes for an event will obviously draw a lot of worldwide attention. It leads to various critics that question the ethical aspect of the event. Some people argued that having a food fight is not a good thing to do, as they’re going to be wasting foods that can be used to battle hunger. Even Nigeria has complained about it, due to their own case where their tomatoes are destroyed by moths.
However, people of Spain have since defended La Tomatina, as the tomatoes used are all unfit for consumption. Bunol’s mayor, Rafa Perez Gil, also said that La Tomatina festival can even increase the revenue of the country, therefore helping local communities to grow. In fact, La Tomatina has helped pull two towns out of bankruptcy (Bunol and another town called Xilxes, where the tomatoes are cultivated).
10. Make Sure to Abide by These Rules
Food fight seems so fun for the participants. However, an event can only be fun if all the people involved abide by the rules set by the officials. For La Tomatina, these rules are essential because it will create a safe environment for the event. If you decide to go into this year’s La Tomatina, then make sure to read and understand these rules:
- Do not bring bottles or any other hard objects that can cause an accident
- Don’t rip other people’s shirt
- Squash tomatoes before throwing them to reduce impact
- Make sure to keep a safe distance to the trucks
- When the alarm rings, stop all activities and don’t hurl anymore tomatoes
11. The Interest Shown for La Tomatina is Skyrocketing
Over the years, La Tomatina became more popular. When we take a look back, it’s crazy to think that a simple tradition from a small city can become a worldwide phenomenon. People from all around the world have come to Spain to take part in the celebration. Prior to 2013, there were an estimated number of 40,000 to 50,000 people, crammed inside a city that has a total population of 9,600 people. Since then, there has been a decision to limit the number of participants to just 20,000. Due to the limited accommodations available, it makes a lot of sense to limit the number of people.
12. India Has Their Own Version of La Tomatina, But It is Cancelled
We’re not lying when we say that La Tomatina festival is able to generate a lot of attention. In fact, India has tried to make their own version of La Tomatina! There, the name of the event is the Holi Tomato Festival. Similar to the original event, the event was circulated around the tomato fights that commenced at exactly 11 am. However, it seems that the backlash from the public in 2011 led to the decision to cancel the event. A lot of people said that wasting food for the rich seems unfair, especially when taking the context of the country’s conditions then. It’s so unfortunate to see the potential event canceled, but we genuinely understand the decision!