The tellings of La Tomatina’s history are vague, with interpretations of the festival’s origins ranging from practical jokes between mates, locals throwing fruit and vegetables at poorly performing street artists, to huge riots that escalated during other Spanish festivals in the area.
Let’s get the facts straight… The happenings of La Tomatina history were never actually officially recorded (or if they were, they must have been lost in the tomato chaos because no one knows where they are), and all that are left are historian’s interpretations and handed-down tales between family members. Perhaps the most accurate version of its history was during the festival of “Gigantes y Cabezudos”, a Giants and Heads festival in which holds of parade of giants wearing costumes complete with grotesque heads (not the strangest festival we’ve heard of in Spain!).
During this festival, it is said some bystanders wanted to join the parade for a practical joke, and in barging through, knocked over one of the giants. This led to a riot between the parade members and bystanders. In the midst of it all, it is said that someone grabbed a tomato from a fruit stand nearby and pelted it into the crowd, beginning a food fight unlike any other.
La Tomatina – The Struggle
This is where the struggle begins… history has not been easy for the now world-renowned and remarkably popular festival. After some young Spanairds with their own tomatoes tried to replicate the food fight again for fun, the event was banned. With the following year’s recreations of the tomato fight resulting in many young people being fined, punished and even imprisoned.
By 1957, 17 years after the first fight, the locals held a festival to celebrate the official funeral of La Tomatina, which boasted a large coffin with a big red tomato seated inside it. Upon this festival, the city council realized its popularity and decided to make it officially legal, thus giving us – the wild festival we see today.
Bits and bobs – La Tomatina facts
Grab a pen and paper, here are some facts about the festival.
• La Tomatina sees the sacrifice of around 150,000 tomatoes in just one hour
• “Palo Jabón” is the practise in which any daring competitors can attempt to the retrieve a ham that is situated at the top of a greasy pole
• The retrieval of this ham symbolizes the official beginning of the food fight
• The tomatoes come from Extremadura, where inferior-tasting varieties are specifically grown just for the big event
• 1980 saw the town hall take responsibility of organizing the La Tomatina festival for the first time
Keen for some tomato action? Check out our 5-star La Tomatina tours.