To-Madness

First of all I want to apologize for the cheesy title of this post. I’m practicing word play. Keyword= practicing.

However, I just wanted to share this thingy I found with you. For feature writing class, we were told to write a travel feature on a place, person or event with the target publication being BMI magazine (an in-flight magazine). I once upon a time, in the long-long ago read about some tomato festival somewhere in Spain and figured it would make a pretty darn perfect story if I could ever find what exactly it was. Thankfully, that didn’t prove too hard.  So without further ado, I added a version of the article I will submit. In case my lecturer checks for plagiorism: Hi Claire, it’s me, Eva.

Do you remember the way you used to look up to grown-ups as a child? They could do anything, didn’t have to follow anybody’s rules; they are their own bosses. And now that you are grown up, do you not sometimes really want to be a child again to get away with anything, to run around and play in the mud? Well, a small town near Valencia in Spain, called Buñol has since 1944 or 1945 found a fantastic cure for this global feeling of nostalgia.

It is called ‘La Tomatina’ which means ‘the little tomato’ but there could literally be no bigger understatement than this. From 11 am on the last Wednesday of every August, 40 000 tomato enthusiasts go to town on 115 tonnes of tomatoes that are trucked into this little village. The tomatoes are thrown, poured, picked up, squashed, rubbed and thrown again as they take the lead in history’s biggest annual food fight. For the next 2 hours, it is every man and woman for him or herself. The tomatoes will be everywhere; in their eyes, ears, noses, you name it. Until the finishing tomato packed canon is fired, there are almost no rules except for having fun and keeping it that way.

However, the festive launching of red fruits is unable to start before someone manages to climb the ‘Palo Jabon’. It basically means they have to retrieve a big ham from the top of a tall greased up pole. Yes, really. As the crowds continue to grow and pressure in the main town square increases, people climb on top of each other, pull each other down, rub themselves in with anything that could help to reach the infamous ham. As soon as someone brings it down victoriously, the tomato slaughter begins. The more tomato you get, the more popular you will be (but only amongst other participants).

The tomatoes themselves come from a nearby town where they can be bought cheaply in great quantities. In fact, a large part of their production is made especially for the Tomatina Festival. It is said that they are less tasty than other Spanish tomatoes, but who really criticises street soup? It is really up to the participants to try some if they want to.

Once the tomato fight has finished and it is time to tidy up, some firetrucks drive round the town and everybody chips in to hose the streets clean and get the town back in business. For the best wash, people with hoses make for the best showers. An alternative is a quick rinse in the nearby river although its hygiene levels are questionable. One can only assume that after that, it is siesta time.

This crazy event is only a part of the week-long festivities that attracts tourists from all over the world. Several International travel groups organise tours that provide you with a bed and some food and let you stay for a couple days around La Tomatina. This can be pretty handy as most affordable hostels, hotels and campings will be booked up by backpackers. However, most backpackers particularly want to be part of this one day.

As for how this festival came about, the origins are ambiguous. Some say it started as a playful food fight between friends, a juvenile class war, or even a practical joke on a bad musician. The most popular theory is that some unhappy townspeople attacked several councilmen with tomatoes during a town celebration. All we really know is that it is still popular today, and that it is growing with every year it continues.

So if you feel rushed by your busy nine-to-five lives, why not take a couple days off in August and come let out all your stress in one big tomato covered mess.

 
 
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