The ‘Cipotegato’ is the popular name of the main character of the Tarazona Festivities celebrated in honour of its patron Saint Atilano, who, dressed in a harlequin´s disguise, faces an excited multitude, who cheer him and throw tomatoes at him. It was declared Festival of National Tourist Interest in 2009.
How it is celebrated
Every August 27th, noontime, the Main Square of Tarazona is crowded with people who insistently cry ‘Cipote-Cipote’. They are waiting excitedly for the ‘Cipotegato‘.
The door of the Town Hall is opened and the figure in red-green-yellow, whom everybody wants to pelt with tomatoes, is there. It marks the start of the festival. He is hardly able to cross the square, being helped by his family, friends, as well as old ‘Cipotegatos’ who try to make a corridor for him.
He runs through the city and finally, when he returns to the main square, he is taken, to the cheers of the crowd, up to the statue which depicts the character. Once he rises up to the statue he salutes the crowd and a storm of tomatoes falls all over him.
In the evening a Cipotegato for children takes place. This time red balls substitute the tomatoes.
On the following day, the ‘Cipotegato’ will take part in a parade with giants and large-headed figures. He will also attend the mass and the Offering of flowers and fruits to the Virgin del Río, while regional music and dances are performed by to the river.
This patronal festival lasts four days more with different festive events such as live music, fireworks, and cinema, among others.
A Bit of History
It appears that the Cipotegato has a long tradition of over 300 years. Its origin could be in the early 18th century when, according to legends, a figure pejoratively known as ‘Pellexo de Gato’ or ‘Mojigato’ accompanied the Corpus procession to prevent children from bothering during religious services. It is also said that when Tarazona had a prison, during its festivities, a prisoner was given the opportunity to be released, in case he survives after being stoned.
However, it was not until the 20th century that children started to face the Cipotegato, throwing at him vegetables first and tomatoes later.
Until the 1980s the figure of the Cipotegato was not viewed favorably, but little by little his popularity changed and nowadays playing the role of the Cipotegato has become an honour. Due to the increasing number of volunteers who want to represent it, the selection is done through a raffle. The last raffle had 144 participants including 12 women.
My personal point of view
The Cipotegato is a great fun festival with a long tradition which reminds me of the most famous ‘Tomatina’, since tomatoes are not only thrown at the main character, as you may see in the pictures. Here the participants are the ones who bring their own tomatoes and choose their target. It is not so crowded yet and for sure much more authentic.
Tarazona is a very interesting city rich in Mudéjar buildings with an exceptional cathedral and a historic heritage where Muslims, Jews, and Christians coexisted for a long time. Therefore, you have two reasons to visit it.
By the way, very soon we will be able to see a film with real scenes of the Cipotegato 1915, “Bendita Calamidad” of Gaizka Urresti (based on the book of Miguel Mena)