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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
Running with the bulls in Pamplona 
6th-Jul-2009 04:35 pm

The Fiestas de San Fermín started at noon today. Until July 14, Pamplona will host one of the world's biggest annual parties, with music, dancing, a fair, nightly fireworks, children's events, parades, religious processions — 500 events in all. And, of course, running with the bulls.

The official poster shown here, by Ángel Blanco Egoskozabal, depicts today's noontime kickoff tradition. I've stolen the description of the from the official website, which is well worth a visit: http://www.turismo.navarra.es/eng/propuestas/san-fermines/

"The rocket that inaugurates the fiesta of San Fermín is known as the chupinazo. At 12 noon on July 6th thousands of people fill City Hall Square to overflowing. With great expectation, accompanied by chants, shouting and cheering, the crowd dressed in red and white waits for a member of the City Council to light the fuse of the rocket. To the shout of "Pamploneses, Viva San Fermín! Gora San Fermín!" the place erupts and thousands of red neck scarves are waved to welcome nine days of unparalleled fun."

The running of the bulls, called an encierro, takes place at 8 a.m. every day from July 7 to July 14. Each encierro goes 825 meters through the heart of downtown and usually takes about 3 minutes. On a good morning, no one gets hurt.

I'll be at home working on writing projects rather than partying and drinking non-stop day and night in Pamplona, but each morning I'll be watching the live television transmissions of the encierro. I'll post links so you can watch the videos. Viva San Fermín! Gora San Fermín!

— Sue Burke

(Deleted comment)
6th-Jul-2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
"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 discovered that bull fighting required a very great quantity of a certain type of courage of which I had an almost complete lack." Ernest Hemingway, 1923
(Deleted comment)
7th-Jul-2009 02:45 pm (UTC)
Drunk runners are removed from the encierro by the police and fined. Being drunk only means that you will be more likely to make a mistake that will endanger yourself and those around you.

Nor will being a rag doll save you. The bull's horns are sharp and he can use them with precision, whether you are drunk or sober. Moreover, as they teach you in martial arts, if you know how to fall, you can do a lot to protect yourself in a bad situation. But if you're drunk, you'll let your head crack itself open on the pavement. You are more likely to die if you are drunk.

You are also required by law to wear good shoes and not carry a backpack or other impediment, take photos, or engage in other distracting or dangerous behavior.

And of course bullfighting is a tragedy. "It symbolizes the struggle between man and the beasts," Hemingway wrote for a magazine in 1923. In fact, it's based on pagan ritual sacrifice. Of course the bull dies. It's supposed to. It's the sacrifice, which is why the bull is also a noble, honored animal in Spanish culture. You only sacrifice that which is worthy of the gods.
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8th-Jul-2009 07:49 pm (UTC)
The police have been strict for as long as I've been here, which is 10 years. But it might depend on where you were. Some places, like Pamplona, are carefully organized. Some places are lax. Some places can't be lax because they have no rules. Generally, the smaller the encierro, the more casual the authorities are.
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