Tomato battle drenches Spanish town

Tens of thousands of revellers hurled 120 tonnes of squashed tomatoes at each other Wednesday, drenching the streets in red in a gigantic Spanish food fight known as the Tomatina.

By (AFP)

Published: Wed 29 Aug 2012, 4:22 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:59 AM

A sea of more than 40,000 alcohol-soaked men and women packed into the Plaza Mayor square of Bunol, eastern Spain, many with their shirts off and wearing swimming goggles to keep out the stinging juice.

Spectators peered over the balconies of surrounding buildings, some also chucking tomatoes on chanting, dancing food-fighters below, who covered the square like a carpet.

Five trucks loaded with the tomatoes struggled to find space in the crowd to enter the square, which was packed solid.

But as they unloaded the edible ammunition, the square and surrounding streets were suddenly awash in a sea of tomato-sauce, covering the crowds of festival goers.

“I can’t throw fast enough. This is crazy. It’s my third year,” said one battler, Angel, as he pelted others with tomatoes, which must be squashed before being chucked so as to minimise the pain.

Many wore yellow T-shirts enscribed “Fanatic of the Tomatina”; one Japanese tourist protected himself with a tomato-shaped helmet as his friend stood by wrapped in a scarf decorated with tomato.

“We don’t have much space but there is no other way,” said Rafael Perez, spokesman for the town of 10,000 inhabitants.

“It’s been here since 1945.”

The Tomatina is held each year in Bunol, in the heart of a fertile region some 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of the coastal city of Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, on the last Wednesday in August.

The town says it expects the fight to bring in 300,000 euros ($380,000) to the local economy, a welcome financial boost as the country suffers from a recession and a jobless rate of nearly 25 percent.

The origins of the event are unclear although it is thought to have its roots in a food fight between childhood friends in the mid-1940s in the city.

It has grown in size as international press coverage brought more and more people to the festival, with tourists flocking in this year from Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.

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