The precise origins of the La Tomatina Festival are shrouded in mystery. On the fourth Wednesday of August each year, in the otherwise somewhat sleepy village of Buñol, near the Spanish city of Valencia, the greatest food fight in the world takes place.
The La Tomatina festival began in the 1940s, however it unclear just how the crazy occasion got its start. Apparently there was some kind of civil disorder in the town, which was subsequently cracked down upon by the local police. Yet whatever it was, the tradition of throwing copious amounts of tomatoes at one another was, for some reason, embraced by the local population. The yearly custom snowballed from those early years, eventually transforming into the internationally renowned event attended by visitors from around the world: the La Tomatina festival.
How Did Such a Crazy Concept Come About?
There are a number of potential reasons why the La Tomatina festival might have got its start. It is purported that the La Tomatina festival may have got underway as a result of a practical joke gone awry, or maybe it was the consequence of a street fight that got out of hand. Some local legends have it that the tomatoes were being pelted a politician of the time, who was said to be unpopular.
Such an explanation would perhaps find favour among many people, considering most of our opinions of politicians these days, though the story might be somewhat unlikely, given that those who made outright challenges to authority were not often tolerated in Francoist Spain. Some cling to the notion that a truck that was transporting tomatoes to market was involved in some kind of accident. The truck is said to have overturned, spilling its cargo on to the street. Apparently the locals thought this called for some amusement, and the tomato food fight began.
Giants, Big Heads, Kids and Tomatoes
However, probably the most oft told tale of all of the origins of the La Tomatina Festival involves a local parade. Many locals agree that in sometime around the mid-1940s, the traditional town parade took place. This parade is termed in Spanish as the parade of the “gigantes y cabezudos”, or in English: the parade of the “giants and the big heads”. The residents of the village would all join in the parade, dressed in giant headed costumes.
Some say that, during the parade, one of the giant headed costumes was knocked off one of the revellers. The man wearing the giant head was said to be enraged, and took out his anger on the rest of the crowd. The mischievous local children responded by grabbing handfuls of tomatoes from a local market stall, and began to throw them at the man in question.
The incident with the giant head costume and the kids with tomatoes quickly became famous. Apparently, a year later the children involved decided that they would like to recreate the tomato food fight. The rest of the locals seemed to like it, and it became a yearly tradition. Over the years, local authorities and police forces have attempted to put an end to the fun, but eventually they gave up a losing battle. Whatever the truth, these tall tales the La Tomatina festival is now a bona fide tourist attraction of world acclaim.