Why do we like the Tomatina?
The last Wednesday of August the Tomatina is celebrated once again, a modern tradition known to all that consists in a tomato fight in Buñol, near Valencia: a fiesta that was born because of a prosecution of a gang of youngsters that ended up in battle royal around 1945.
Tradition has it that, since it was neither a political nor a religious celebration, it even was forbidden during the fifties, until the locals staged a “Burial of the Tomato”. The funny joke struck a chord with the authorities, who restored the fiesta, maybe conscious of the powerful attraction that the throwing of this vegetable exerts. An attraction that was maintained through time, because, if the Tomatina is famous world wide, it is because of the broadcasting of a 1983 documentary piece in the program “Informe Semanal” in which this quaint celebration was given account for; from there to international TV, and from international TV to the mind of the cosmopolitan tourist avid for “typically Spanish” emotions.
The Tomatina has evolved through time and, if before the sole attraction was the food fight, nowadays one can also see fireworks, take part in a cucaña (typical fiesta activity that consists in climbing a greased pole that has a prize on its top), or enjoying musical performances.
But, what is so attractive for us about the Tomatina? Some think that it is all about these times we live in, in which any task is due for yesterday and that generate so much stress. Many of the participants in the indiscriminate firing of tomatoes state that, after the fight, they feel more “relaxed” or “liberated”… no doubt it is a very effective anti-stress therapy.
Others think that it has to do with the empowerment of the “child inside us”. We all have played with food (much as our parents despise this) and the fact of doing it in the context of an institutionalised fiesta gives us a pretext to throw at each other something that is edible and meant to be eaten. By the way, fear not the food waste: they tell us that the tomatoes used for the Tomatina are exclusively grown in the village of Xilxes, in the province of Castellón.
But probably everyone that enjoys the Tomatina has their own reasons that may escape a rational explanation. And it is very possible that that is also why is attracts us so much. When you throw a tomato, you get in touch with your unbridled side… and that is what the best fiestas are all about!