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Festivals: La Tomatina

Type: Reference material

At the end of August in the town of Buñol near Valencia in Spain, the locals celebrate their patron saint, San Luis Bertràn and the Virgin Mary. During the week of the festival, there are paella-cooking contests, parades, music, dancing and fireworks.

La Tomatina is the highlight of the festival on the last Wednesday of the month. Locals and tourists gather in the town during the morning whilst shopkeepers cover the fronts of their shops with sheets of plastic. Meanwhile, lorries carrying 125,000 kilograms of ripe tomatoes drive into the town. At 11am, a siren can be heard, then for nearly two hours everyone throws squashed tomatoes at each other. Another siren can be heard and that calls for the fight to stop.

There are different stories as to how this unusual festival started but most sources agree that the first tomato fight took place in 1945. Some think it started as a practical joke, others at an anti-Franco rally. There are some who believe that brawling audiences at a carnival parade started throwing the contents of a nearby vegetable stall at one another. 

In the following years, the fights took place again but were stopped by the local police and authorities. The locals continued to celebrate the 'day of the tomatina' and in 1959 the Town Hall allowed the celebration to take place with strict rules. It has taken place every year since.

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