TOMATINA – TOMATO BATTLE
Another name for the holiday is the Battle of Tomatoes (La Batalle del Tomate).
In the last week of August in the city of Bunol, in eastern Spain, begins the annual “Tomato Festival” dedicated to the outgoing summer. Like all Spanish festivals, this one takes place with festive fireworks, music, dancing and free refreshments. But the tomato festival has one distinctive feature that attracts crowds of tourists to Bunyol, this is the culmination of the holiday – the tomato battle of La Tomatina, which takes place on the town square.
The signal for the start of the battle is a special firecracker, launched on Wednesday at 11 o’clock from the city hall. By this signal, several trucks appear on the streets of the city, loaded with the main characters of the holiday, ripe tomatoes, which are throwing shells. Participants of the holiday, and this is the whole city of Bunyol, running up under a hail of tomatoes to the cars, grabbing shells and cheerfully taking revenge on those who ran to the trucks first.
However, the target can be anyone in the reach zone, the main task of the participants, which, incidentally, is considered by everyone, to fire at the neighbor’s tomatoes, and whoever turns out to be to them, is not so important. Given that there are about forty thousand people taking part in this fun, and the number of shells is estimated at hundreds of tons of tomatoes, it’s easy to imagine what the town square and residents are turning into just a few minutes after the start of the tomato shootout.
During the fighting, lasting two hours, almost all bars, cafes, restaurants and any public places are closed, and special plastic panels are hung on windows and doors. The Tomatina participants themselves prefer reasonable minimalism in clothes, since it is difficult to stay clean on this day even outside the city square. The expression “tomato rivers”, often used in the description of tomato riot, is not a red word at all.
The historical roots of this unusual holiday go back to the time of Franco’s dictatorial rule. According to one version, throwing tomatoes at each other served as a symbolic protest to his regime. But most likely, a similar meaning was given to tomato battles later, when the local holiday was already famous throughout Spain. The very first tomato slaughter was recorded in 1945, when at the end of summer festival in Bunyol, a group of young people, inadvertently or wanting to have fun, dropped a large figure of one of the participants in the parade, inside which the participant himself was. Rising, he did not appreciate the joke and began a brawl, which his friends quickly joined. The clash took place near the stalls with vegetables, and the tomatoes immediately became projectiles. The police arrived in time to disperse the brawlers and forced them to pay for spoiled vegetables, but exactly one year later they gathered there and already with their tomatoes.
Gradually, the tomato shootings became citywide and, despite the dissatisfaction of the police, more and more people took part in them. In 1950, local authorities no longer interfered with the holding of Tomatina, as this day began to be called. But the temperamental Spaniards were not always limited to throwing tomatoes at each other, sometimes influential people also fell under the distribution of vegetables, which led to the ban on the holiday in 1957. Frustrated by this, the Spaniards arranged a crowded Tomatina funeral, where a huge coffin with a tomato was carried along the streets of the city, and the mourning procession, according to all the rules, was accompanied by an orchestra and weepers. Under pressure from the townspeople, in 1959, local authorities were forced to lift the ban and recognize Tomatina as Bunyol’s official holiday.
At the same time, the rules for holding this holiday, which are valid to this day, were adopted. There are only four bans: the beginning and end of the battle are strictly determined by the signal firecracker from the city hall; you can’t throw yourself with anything other than tomatoes, and the tomatoes themselves should be crushed before the throw, in order to avoid injury; it is forbidden to tear clothes on each other; Do not interfere with the movement of trucks with tomatoes. Thanks to these simple rules, not a single Tomatina celebration has led to serious incidents.
Until 1975, each resident paid for his shells from his pocket, bringing tomatoes to the celebration with him. And in the 75th, monks from the Order of St. Louis Bertrand, the patron saint of the city, began to deliver “ammunition”. Five years later, the municipality of the city took up the organization of the holiday, which sharply increased the number of participants in the holiday and the volume of tomatoes scattered.
Tomato battles end with a dip in a pool filled with tomato juice and a leg of a traditional Iberian pig. By the end of the holiday, a tomato mush under his feet reaches his ankles, and nearby houses, as well as the participants, are repainted in red. After the battle itself, the area is washed, and then the Tomato Festival lasts for several days, the last festival of the outgoing summer.