La Tomatina

It’s been 14 years since I last visited the tomato festival in Bunol - Spain that is La Tomatina. I used an underwater protective case to hold the camera, a Canon EOS 1ds and 16-35mm lens taped down on 28mm. Opening the case during the festival wasn’t an option so a had to choose a focal length and go with it. Probably one of the hardest things to shoot as wiping the lens is impossible so you have go with whatever is on there! Also you’re fair game for either side to get as many tomatoes as possible thrown at you & believe me they hurt!

La Tomatina is a food fight festival held on the last Wednesday of August each year in the town of Bunol near to Valencia in Spain. Thousands upon thousands of people make their way from all corners of the world to fight in this 'World's Biggest Food Fight' where more than one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets.

Prior to 2013 anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 (reported to be 50,000 in 2012) people crammed into this huge tomato fight, greatly expanding Bunol's normal 9,000 person population. Since 2013 official ticketing has been in place limiting the number of participants to just 20,000 lucky people.

There is limited accommodation for people who come to La Tomatina, so many people take the easier option of staying in nearby Valencia just 38km to Bunol by bus or train. In preparation for the dirty mess that will ensue, shopkeepers use huge plastic covers on their storefronts in order to protect them from the carnage.

At around 11am many trucks haul the bounty of tomatoes into the centre of the town, Plaza del Pueblo. The tomatoes come from Extremadura, where they are less expensive. Technically the festival does not begin until one brave soul has climbed to the top of a two-story high, greased-up wooden pole and reached the coveted ham at the top. In practice this process takes a long time and the festival starts despite no one reaching the meaty prize. The signal for the beginning of the fight is firing of water cannons, and the chaos begins. Once it begins, the battle is generally every man for himself.

After an one hour the fighting ends. At this point, no more tomatoes can be thrown. The cleaning process involves the use of fire trucks to spray down the streets, with water provided from a Roman aqueduct. The authorities seem more concerned with cleaning the town than cleaning the visitors, so some people find water at the Bunol River to wash themselves, although some kind residents will hose passers-by down. Once the tomato pulp is flushed, the ground is clean due to the acidity of the tomato.


brett harkness