Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pamplona: Running of the Bulls Festival

Bulls and Spain are inseparable in a thick rope of cultural history that brings die hard adventure seekers to Pamplona's City Hall every year beginning July 6th like frenzied moths with too much money in head on collisions with flames from wounds. City Hall in Pamplona - the only one as symbol of potential catastrophe- with thousands of white t-shirted people wearing red kerchiefs lining or running the small narrow streets that form the race course. Centuries of people running with the Bulls plays out with red ties and scarfs to commemorate the opening of Sanfermines or the San Fermín festival. Scores of people get hurt by being trampled by their fellow celebrants as iron gates swing open to start the bull run. This year, one Irish lad fell off the wall to his death while others suffered glancing or near goring from riled up bulls who are tired of the taunts, noise and screams. Nowadays, there are multi-lingual guides with highlighted safety tips for the stupid that detail all manner of things about the festival. A loud rocket sounds letting the less foolhardy run for cover, clamber up walls or hide like a sane person behind concrete barriers along the half-mile or 825 meter race course. As the gate opens, all the bulls get through the gate and another blast of a rocket goes out to let the crowd know when the last bull is let loose. Great. The final act is the corrida (bull fight) which sends members of PETA into orbit annually as they find new and different ways to express with or without clothes their displeasure at the rite.

In the way back in the day past, bulls were put into corrals pending doom at a next day bull fight. Athletic folks with good to great acceleration in their legs (read young people males with or without stimulants) would jump in the middle of the corral to display their daring to their friends. After boarding up their houses and their shops as if for a terrible storm, Spanish locals watch thousands of tumbling tourists risk life and limb in the exercise, knowing that a stampede of humans is more fatal than the bulls. Mercaderes is the stretch of the race where many injuries occur, especially when it rains. Think a sliding half ton of bull with horns pointed unable to stop with the choice of piercing softer human flesh or hitting a hard wall. The Circle of Life rushes by as the bulls rush right back into a corral to await the afternoon entertainment - them, to the death at a bull fight. More firecrackers go off signaling when bulls hit the stadium and the fourth and final rocket when all the bulls are parked in a pen and the race is over. Then, the ambulance and rescuers descend. This happens for eight days straight during the San Fermín festival.

Professional matadors fight, and invariably kill, the bulls each afternoon of the festival.

The fiesta, which ends July 14, is known also for its all-night street parties.

Tuesday's run used bulls from the southern Cebada Gago ranch, considered among the most dangerous in San Fermin. In 27 years, they have gored more than 35 people.

Spain lists as second, with 40, for the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in one country. The arts pay homage to the history of bulls and bull fighting. Antiquity shows the worship of bulls at Knossos. In España, during the 19th century, Francisco de Goya made his famous etchings of the recortes or Basque-Navarre bull fighting style. The bull lives to a ripe old age with this style. Edouard Manet did a famous rendering of a gored matador in Dead Bullfighter (1864-1865).

Ernest Hemingway, one of the top 100 books of all
time according to some literary critics The Sun Also Rises (1926) is the best way to experience Pamplona and The Running of the Bulls. Who needs the actual goring - neither human or bull enjoys it.

No comments: