La Tomatina is the now famous celebration where 20,000 tourists, drunks and tomato warriors gather on the tiny town of Bunol with swim goggles and old clothing as protection purely to throw tomatoes at each other. The festival runs the last Wednesday in August, but festivities run all week in town.
The Rules of La Tomatina
Officially there are restrictions which mandate that you must:
• Squash all tomatoes before throwing.
• Not throw anything other than tomatoes.
• Not rip t-shirts or other clothing.
However, once the tomato trucks roll in, anything goes. Expect that every piece of clothing that you wear to the festival will be ruined and that you will be smacked in the face by something other than a tomato. It’s all part of the fun!
The Best Party Times of La Tomatina
Festivities in the town run all week, but they really heat up Tuesday night, with a number of open air discotecas and bars busting out the beats and booze into the next day. But don’t get too crazy the night before the tomato-throwing. You will want to head to the city centre sometime around 8am for two reasons:
1. Around 9am, it gets so crowded that it won’t be easy getting anywhere near the centre.
2. The Palo Jabόn.
The Palo Jabόn
The Palo Jabόn is a twenty foot tall “palo” (stick) greased with “jabόn” (soap) and lard, topped with a giant juicy ham. For the next few hours, hundreds of eager festival-goers will repeatedly try to climb the pole in vain attempts to try and knock the ham off the top. Of course, the amount of grease used on the pole makes it nigh impossible to get anywhere near the top using just the pole. The key to victory is to use fellow climbers (there will be multiple people trying to climb every minute) as footholds and handholds, since nobody can get to the top using just the pole itself. But even trying this tactic can prove fruitless, as everyone wants the ham for themselves, which means everyone sabotage’s one another’s efforts. Sometimes, they violently shake the pole until the ham flies off to rapturous applause.
The Tomato Brawl
Once the ham is down, a cannon is fired and flatbed trucks loaded with tomatoes (coming from a mile away) move about a foot a minute through the sea of people. Every twenty feet or so, the trucks dump a large pile of tomatoes, which people quickly fall upon in what becomes a scene of absolute chaos. Next thing you know, tomatoes, tomato bits, shirts and anything else which could be used as a projectile flies through the air. No one stays on their feet for long as the hordes behind you shove forward and inevitably the pile of tomatoes becomes full of sopping red smiling people scrambling over each other trying to get up.
All Quiet on the Tomato Front
After an hour of this insanity, the second cannon is fired and all is over, theatrically. However, tomato bits continue to fly as the legions of red figures swarm out towards the nearby river or the civic centre’s showers. Bunol locals happily pull out their hoses and buckets to help wash the crowd, with water pouring from every balcony and garage in the city.
One thing’s for sure, you will have been so happy to see a very old Spanish woman holding a hose in one hand and a cigarette in the other.