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La Tomatina - Food For Thought?

SPAIN | Thursday, 4 September 2014 | Views [1326]

The crowd was getting restless. 20’000 people began surging back and forth, struggling to give themselves space to breathe in the record breaking heat wave that had struck Buñol. Unable to move freely, the atmosphere grew more intense as we all waited anxiously for the first tomato truck to arrive.

In the centre of the mayhem was a ham. Resting on top of a 8m high wooden pole covered in thick grease, the pig leg waits to be nabbed by a competent climber. Another one of the stranger traditions that goes alongside the world famous tomato fight, sangria-fuelled punters crawl on top of each other to shimmy up the pole hoping to acquire glory and an evening meal. Historically La Tomatina would not start until the ham has been brought back to the ground but due to the unsurprising difficulty of this now the festival begins at 11am regardless of the location of the pork.

There was a mix between cheers of encouragement and heated taunting aimed at those who bravely (or perhaps foolishly) were trying to climb the wooden pole in the centre of the street. Our faith in humanity began to dwindle as we witnessed selfish people drag others down who were closing in on the prize. Apparently glory means more than respect. The crowd becomes disgruntled at those who are not willing to help their fellow man or woman reach the top. Chaos ensues.

La Tomatina Ham

Soon it has reached 11am, and officials have decided that despite the ham not being safely back on the ground, the festivities will begin. There is a loud blast, similar to a gun shot, and the audience screams enthusiastically. Security walks through, splitting the crowd in two in order to make room for the dump trucks to drive past.

As the first truck arrives people sitting in the large tray start hurling tomatoes at us, and the mood changes from frustration to jubilation. It has begun.

La Tomatina Truck

Tomatoes start flying through the air, covering everyone in a thick, red and pink mess. There is no escaping from the onslaught and people begin picking up remnants of the fruit from the ground and rubbing it through each other’s hair. The streets are inches thick in tomato soup. Excited party-goers attempt to swim through the sea of Bolognese.

The trucks continue coming and over 100 tonnes of tomatoes are sacrificed to the masses. New friendships are formed as the revellers embrace each other in tomato-soaked hugs. The white-toothed smiles shine through on the dripping faces of all.

La Tomatina Ground Train

As quickly as it has begun, another loud blast goes out over the audience, signalling the end of the madness. Surprisingly everyone obliges and no more tomatoes are thrown. Exhaustion quickly takes over and the crowd shuffles away towards waiting Spaniards, who happily oblige in washing down the messy attendees with garden hoses. Some decide to stay and drink more sangria while others retire back to their allocated modes of transport headed back to the town of Valencia. Not a negative vibe is felt anywhere.

The day’s festivities are over, but not forgotten. The clothes we were wearing are all but ruined and will be impossible to salvage. While our skin won’t remain stained forever, the lasting impressions will not be washed away. I’ll never look at a tomato the same way again.

La Tomatina Feet

La Tomatina Big Crowd

La Tomatina On Ground

La Tomatina Jazza

 

 

Tags: europe, festival, la tomatina, spain

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