The annual La Tomatina, or Tomato Festival, was held in Bunol, Spain, on Wednesday. I imagine the goings-on would send the makers of ketchup everywhere into a tizzy of excitement!
The origins of the Tomatina are unclear. The most cautious view is that, one day in 1944 or 1945, in the little town of Bunol in Spain, someone decided to throw a tomato. There are many speculations about the motives, about how the town got involved and about who and when it was decided to make it a yearly custom.
But there you have it: on the last Wednesday of every August, the townspeople indulge in a huge tomato fight. Today the natives, about 9.000 of them, are far outnumbered by visitors from all over the world (by some estimates even 30.000 strong). The quantity of tomatoes is the most wildly speculated on: from 90.000 to 240.000 lbs., trucked in by dump trucks from around the countryside.
The tomato fight is part of a week-long fiesta or festival of parties, concerts, parades, dances, a paella cook-out (not for throwing), fireworks, craft sales, etc. Though the festival doesn't have a religious origin, it is an occasion to celebrate the town's patron saint, San Luis Bertran (a Dominican friar, d. 1581) and the Virgin Mary.
On Wednesday, at 11 am, the main attraction kicks off on the center square, Plaza del Pueblo. First someone has to reach a ham stuck on top of a tall, greased pole. Initially people fight one another for the honor, but slowly they pull together. When the ham comes down, a cannon shot is fired, the signal for the trucks to bring in the main course.
The batalla or battle is supposed to be every person for himself, but it often develops into a girls versus boys competition. There are some rules: squeeze the tomatoes before you throw them, don't bring bottles and the like into the fray, and don't tear off someone else's clothing. The precaution of wearing goggles and gloves is more than often overlooked.
You must obey the cannon shot, which after two hours signals the end of la Tomatina. Fire trucks move in to spray the streets clean, and within a few hours the town is spotless. As for the participants, most bathe afterwards in the nearby Bunol River.
Looks like everyone had fun! More pictures of La Tomatina may be found here.