Ever since 1945, on the last Wednesday of the month of August, a short-lived but highly intense battle royal erupts in which ripe tomatoes take the place of bullets, there are no armies and no prisoners are taken, and the only casualties are due to uncontrollable fits of laughter.
There are only a few rules to the "Tomatina de Buñol": throw as many tomatoes as you can, throw them at whoever you like, and throw them as hard as you can. It's every man for himself! No matter what else happens, thousands of people will hurl 140 tons of tomatoes at each other in just one hour. Those who are somewhat scrupulous as to their attire and are concerned about not being able to remove the stains from their clothes, should perhaps stay away.
However, there are certain safety regulations that the organizers will tell you about and which have to be obeyed. For example, you are not allowed to access the streets in which the "Tomatina" is going to take place, with any sharp objects. You must stop throwing tomatoes when the siren goes off, and you are not allowed to tear people's T-shirts or any other garments.
This Festival has been declared of National Interest for Tourists and it has on occasions attracted as many as 22,000 people. Such is the interest that it arouses that media accreditation is granted each year to some 110 television producers and stations from Europe, Australia, North America, Malaysia or Turkey, among others.
Currently, due to the massive influx of visitors that the festival has always attracted, you now have to purchase a ticket weeks in advance (it costs around 10 Euros). Part of the income is donated to an Indian NGO that works with women at risk of social exclusion.
There is a curious story behind this festival: in 1945 a few young men slipped in among the entourage of authorities that were parading with all the musicians and the giants and "big-heads" during the festivities in honour of the town's patron saint. Because of all their pushing and shoving, one of the participants fell to the ground, and becoming quite irate, he started hurling a particular vegetable that just happened to be right beside him. And before you could say Jack Robinson, the entire town of Buñol was immersed in a tremendous battle, just like something straight out of Hollywood. In the following years, those lads came back again, bringing with them their own tomatoes, prepared to do battle and to go down in history. And boy did they do just that! Now it is up to you to make sure this curious tradition survives...
A tip or two, just in case: Don't wear flip-flops, you might lose them in the battle! And don't forget to protect your eyes with goggles. Tomato juice stings!