Cipotegato Festival 2022

Spain’s Bizarre Cipotegato Festival Returns After Pandemic Break

Thousands of spectators armed with tomatoes packed into the Spanish town of Tarazona on Saturday, Aug. 27 to mark the much-awaited return of the Cipotegato festival.

Even among Spain’s hundreds of unique local festivals, this one stands out for its peculiar traditions.

It centers around a resident dressing up as a masked clown called the “Cipotegato.”

Starting at noon, the anonymous clown begins running around the town, as those in the crowd hurl thousands of tomatoes in their direction. Inevitably, it also becomes a tomato fight amongst spectators.

Escorted by previous clowns and friends, if Cipotegato makes it to the main square, they climb atop a statue. The crowd then cheers “Cipote, cipote!” as the clown ties a scarf to the monument, officially marking the start of the town’s five days of festivities.

This year, partygoers hurled an estimated 10,000 kilograms (20,000 pounds) of tomatoes at the Cipotegato, who was later revealed to be 32-year-old Andrea Joaquina Dominguez – the third woman ever to take on the role.

“Thanks to everyone who helped me get here,” she said after the wild 20-minute run through her town. “They received all the blows and tomatoes that didn’t hit me. The doctors asked if I was in pain, and I said no! This is unbelievable.”

Local officials said that this year’s festival attracted more visitors than usual.

“This Cipotegato was more intense than other years,” Tarazona Mayor Jose Luis Arrechea told local daily El Periodico de Aragon. “The city really needed it because there was a lot of buildup since the pandemic,” referring to COVID-19.

While the true origins of the festival are murky, the figure of the Cipotegato can be traced back at least 300 years.

One urban legend says that it derives from when the town would free one prisoner from jail each year. The prisoner could remain free if able to survive the journey to the outskirts of town while residents stoned him.

A more accepted hypothesis is that the Cipotegato character comes from a person who was documented to have chased little children and hit them with a stick attached to an inflated cat’s blatter on the eve of the Christian feast of Corpus Christi.

Documentation shows that the Catholic Church banned that tradition in the 18th century, and the figure did not return until the 1900s.

Whatever its origins, this year, the festival appeared to be a profoundly cathartic experience after two summers marked by the fear of viral contagion.

“Today, we’re setting all of our problems aside. On Sept. 1, we’ll get back to everything. But for now, I hope people have fun,” said the town’s mayor.

Source: AA

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