July 13th, 2009


Day 7: relative calm in Pamplona

This morning's newspapers have front-page photos from yesterday's encierro in Pamplona that are even scarier than yesterday's live coverage was. The two runners that suffered the worst injuries, one gored in the throat and the other in the chest, are recovering well and but remain in intensive care.

Today's run with bulls from the Fuente Ymbro Ranch went smoothly. Fewer runners came today, so the "pros" had a chance to do their best. Again, the bulls had been doing laps in their pastures, so they ran fast, only 2 minutes 30 seconds.

As always, there were a few injuries from falls, but only three people were taken to the hospital. Statistics tell us that your odds are 1 in 70 to get a minor injury at an encierro in Pamplona; 1 in 700 to get a serious injury; and 1 in 2,800 to get gored.

Here's Cuatro TV's evocative slow-motion video of today's run, which I recommend. Turn down your speakers for the annoying car commercial that comes on first:

This is Cuatro's promotional video for its San Fermín coverage, featuring Barack Obama's "Yes we can" speech. It's silly, but you might be looking for additional work-avoidance activities. That annoying car commercial comes on first:

TVE's authoritative report, with other items of interest for those deeply interested in the fiesta, all in Spanish:

Finally, the Onion satirical newspaper has resurrected an article from 2004 that shows that someone on its staff knows pretty much about Spain: "Spain Vows Eternal Vigilance In War On Bulls":

— Sue Burke


Hemingway's self-confessed lack of courage in Pamplona

Fifty years ago, Ernest Hemingway paid his last visit to Pamplona. This year's fiestas include a tribute: photography exhibit and the 1st International Ernest Hemingway Doubles and Impersonators Contest. The winner was Tom Grizzard, who is also the 2008 winner of the Hemingway Lookalike Contest held at Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West, Florida. He was ecstatic.

More about the tribute here:

And the winner:

Hemingway used to stay at the five-star La Perla Hotel in Pamplona in a room with a balcony that overlooked the running of the bulls. These days, the room is available during the fiestas for €1,600 per night, or about US$2,200.

His articles as a reporter and most of all his novel The Sun Also Rises made the running of the bulls famous worldwide, and Pamplona now considers itself "one of the most universal festivals." The city is pleased to host international visitors (and I suppose space aliens from across the universe if they decide to attend).

But when he came the first time in 1923, he and his wife were the only English-speakers in town. He wrote about courage in this excerpt from his 1923 article for the Toronto Star Weekly on the bulls of Pamplona.

"... And if you want to keep any conception of yourself as a brave, hard, perfectly balanced, thoroughly competent man in your wife's mind never take her to a real bull fight. I used to go into the amateur fights in the morning to try to win back a small amount of her esteem but the more I discovered that bull fighting required a very great quantity of a certain type of courage of which I had an almost complete lack the more it became apparent that any admiration she might ever develop for me would have to be simply an antidote to the real admiration for [bullfighting stars] Maera and Villalta. You cannot compete with bull fighters on their own ground. If anywhere. The only way most husbands are able to keep any drag with their wives at all is that, first there are only a limited number of bull fighters, second there are only a limited number of wives who have ever seen bull fights...."