España: la capital del festival del mundo

If there is a festival capitol of the world, it is España. Every month brings a new reason to celebrate in a different pueblo or city in the country. Many of these festivals are generations old and bring the entire local community together for days or even weeks. The obvious examples are Semana Santa and Carnaval. These week long fiestas mark days of activities blurred into nights of celebrating, socializing, and excitement in the streets. Nobody works and very few people sleep. Older residents mix with children deep into the morning hours and there are few distinctions between family and complete strangers. People are completely and illogically intoxicated with each other.

This kind of interaction has become sparser in America. Exceptions are music concerts and New Year’s Eve parties. However, for whatever reason, community festivals are not as much of a priority in the United States. The interesting thing is that more often than not, those celebrating have no idea for what purpose they are doing so. Nor do they care. These formalities do not belong in the world of Spanish merry-making. All they know is that they belong there just as much as the benches and trees in the plaza as they dance and mingle around. For example, there is a particularly unique festival called La Tomatina en un pueblo de España. There are many different myths on how this festival began, but it now attracts literally thousands of young travelers to the streets of this inconsequential town every summer.

In a public square lined with plastic, people wait anxiously for the rumble of dump trucks they know will come. Within this fleet of dump trucks contain hundreds of thousands of tomatoes. On some cue unknown to the participants, tomatoes are dumped into the people and madness ensues. As water pours down onto the hot crowd from hoses attached to balconies above, the biggest pot of ketchup is created. In a flurry of complete madness, participants begin to throw tomatoes like their life depends upon it. Of course there are no spectators to this brawl, for everyone is absolutely made of marinara as a bell signals the end of the hour of chaos. It is a spectacle that nobody remembers the beginning of, but one that ties the community together into one identity. Even the young traveler, entranced with stories of yester years, have become part of the community in some small way and they will forever tell of the time they were knighted a true Spaniard with bits of tomato in their ears. This is the kind of simple, beautiful Spanish community that is created by festivals.

photo credit: Getty Images

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