Who cast that first fateful tomato that started the La Tomatina revolution? The reality is no one knows. Maybe it was an anti-Franco rebellion, or a carnival that got out of hand. According to the most popular version of the story, during the 1945 festival of Los Gigantes (a giant paper mâché puppet parade), locals were looking to stage a brawl to get some attention. They happened upon a vegetable cart nearby and started hurling ripe tomatoes. Innocent onlookers got involved until the scene escalated into a massive melee of flying fruit. The instigators had to repay the tomato vendors, but that didn't stop the recurrence of more tomato fights—and the birth of a new tradition.
Fearful of an unruly escalation, authorities enacted, relaxed, and then reinstated a series of bans in the 1950s. In 1951, locals who defied the law were imprisoned until public outcry called for their release. The most famous effrontery to the tomato bans happened in 1957 when proponents held a mock tomato funeral complete with a coffin and procession. After 1957, the local government decided to roll with the punches, set a few rules in place, and embraced the wacky tradition.
Though the tomatoes take center stage, a week of festivities lead up to the final showdown. It's a celebration of Buñol's patron saints, the Virgin Mary and St. Louis Bertrand, with street parades, music, and fireworks in joyous Spanish fashion. To build up your strength for the impending brawl, an epic paella is served on the eve of the battle, showcasing an iconic Valencian dish of rice, seafood, saffron, and olive oil.
Today, this unfettered festival has some measure of order. Organizers have gone so far as to cultivate a special variety of unpalatable tomatoes just for the annual event. Festivities kick off around 10 a.m. when participants race to grab a ham fixed atop a greasy pole. Onlookers hose the scramblers with water while singing and dancing in the streets. When the church bell strikes noon, trucks packed with tomatoes roll into town, while chants of "To-ma-te, to-ma-te!" reach a crescendo.
Then, with the firing of a water cannon, the main event begins. That's the green light for crushing and launching tomatoes in all-out attacks against fellow participants. Long distance tomato lobbers, point-blank assassins, and medium range hook shots. Whatever your technique, by the time it's over, you will look (and feel) quite different. Nearly an hour later, tomato-soaked bombers are left to play in a sea of squishy street salsa with little left resembling a tomato to be found. A second cannon shot signals the end of the battle.
虽然番茄是节日的主角，但番茄大战只是为期一周的庆典活动的压轴戏。该庆典旨在纪念布尼奥尔的守护神圣母玛利亚和圣路易斯•波特朗（St. Louis Bertrand），在节日期间，人们上街游行、音乐四起、烟花璀璨，整个小镇沉浸在西班牙式的狂欢之中。为了保持充沛体力以参加次日的大战，人们在大战前夕供应超级大锅饭，大锅饭是独具特色的巴伦西亚美食，由大米、海鲜、番红花和橄榄油烹制而成。