Let’s Tomato

208 Let's TomatoThe name of España (Spain) came from the Roman name Hispania which is supposed to have originated from the Phoenician name for the peninsula of Iberia, i.e. i-shepan-im. Being translated, it means the land or coast of rabbits. And why? Because when it was visited by the Phoenicians for the first time in 500BC, they found a lot of rabbits running here and there. And consequently they named it after a quite a similar animal called hyrax that inhabited the Northern parts of Africa.

But Spain isn’t only about rabbits. Today’s country has a rich history, marvelous tourist sites, crystal clear waters and golden sand beaches, traditional cuisine, dances and songs, and of course, Spain is famous for its fights of any kind. Here I will tell you about one of the most famous and popular Spanish entertainments that attract thousands of tourists and locals alike. Here it is.

Principally, tomatoes are a delicious cooking ingredient but they have another purpose in the small town of Buñol in Valencia. It’s situated some 30km from the Mediterranean Sea and is famous for La Tomatina. This is a tomato fight whose origins date back to the 1940s. A group of young people headed to the town square where they wanted to attend the local parade on the last Wednesday of August. They joined the festival accompanied by a musician. Their joy and overexciting mood were the reason why a participant fell from the float. The man got furious and started hitting everything around him. Finally he reached a nearby market stall with vegetables arranged on it and began throwing tomatoes in all directions. The other participants followed him and thus the festival became an arena of a tomato fight. Finally, the police took actions and put a final stop to the food fight.

In the year to follow the same juveniles attended the same festival and commenced the same food fight deliberately but this time with tomatoes brought from home. The police dispersed them again and …. and since then this tomato fight has been an annual feast that takes place on the last Wednesday of the month of August every year.

Nowadays La Tomatina gathers thousands of enthusiasts equipped with glasses and gloves, who are eager to jump, roll and throw tomatoes at one another. They come to the town of Buñol where tomatoes (smashed in advance) from Extremadura wait for them. The show and fun start after one of the participants has managed to ascend a wooden greasy pillar on whose top there is a placed ham (jamon). For sure, nobody from the crowd can reach it out and that’s why the show starts without “a winner” at this initial phase. Show? Actually, the tomato chaos commences. Everybody throws tomatoes (no other objects are allowed) at friends and strangers around. T-shirts and vests are torn. Participants shout loudly. Tomato suppliers encourage them by throwing tomatoes. And these tomato emotions last for one whole hour. In the end fire brigade trucks start cleaning the streets taking water from an Ancient Roman aqueduct. As to the people, some of them use the waters of the river of Buñol to wash. The others use the chance to “have a bath” from the hose-pipes of the natives who squirt water to the left and right.

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