Tomato Fight in Recession Hit Spain

The tourists eagerly awaited the arrival of a six-truck-convoy parading in 130 tonnes of cheap tomatoes into the centre of Bunol, in the Valencia region of Spain. The trucks carry important ammunition for the messy traditional battle of "La Tomatina".

The tomatoes are bought from Western Spain where they are cheaper and are squished for safety, and participants are also expected to play fair by not ripping each other's clothes but it seems to be an inevitability in all the mayhem.

Water cannons officially mark the beginning of the tomato carnage and participants start hurling tomatoes at one another.

The 20,000-person battle (almost double Bunol's population) includes British, Australian and Japanese tourists who were keen to join in the chaos. Historically it has been free for both tourists and residents, but tourists this year were expected to fork out an entrance fee of €10 (£8.50) ($13).

In the recession hit country - where 55 per cent of young people are unemployed - Bunol has no choice but to charge for the event to cover costs and has implemented a "no ticket-no entry" policy for non-residents. Its dedicated website also explains that spectators can't watch the fight from anywhere else as it's held in the old town forcing non-resident spectators to also buy tickets.

The mayor has reportedly said the town hall hopes this year's food fight will bring in economic benefits exceeding last year's estimate of €300,000 because paying for entry "changes the level" of participant.

Among the top ticket buyers were Australians with 19.2 per cent of the total, Japanese with 17.9 per cent, Britons with 11.2 per cent, Spaniards with 7.8 per cent and Americans 7.5 per cent.

The origins of La Tomatina are not certain, but rumours date the battle back to 1945 when a tomato fight allegedly broke out between a few friends. Today however the festival celebrates the patron saints of the town: Luis Bertran and "Mare de Deu dels desepmparats" (which translates to Mother of God the Defenceless) another title for the Virgin Mary.

After the hour to two hour battle a water cannon is fired again to alert residents that its over and the street is sprayed by fire trucks to avoid acid corrosion while participants wash themselves in the Buñol River.

Tomato Fight Now Charges