Running with the Bulls
A first-timer’s observations
By: Guest writer Reggie Smith
We all have our bucket list. Some are more adventurous than others. I engaged in one of my bucket list items recently – San Fermin in Pamplona, or better known as Running with the Bulls.
It’s a chaotic scene you have likely seen at some point on TV. Imagine mucho gente (lots of folks) crowding onto the otherwise conservative Pamplona engaging in intermittent or non-stop partying – you choose.
Everyone has read the memo – wear white shirt and pants with a red bandana around your neck. Don’t forget the red sash that seemingly serves as a color-coordinated belt. Young adults,longer on stamina than money can be found sleeping in cars or the park under the stars.
San Fermin was first documented on July 6– 14, 1591. People come from all over to see this spectacle. Today, the bulls are brought to a pen the day before the big event to be “stoked” so that they are “perturbed” for the big event. People line up along the route at 5:30 a.m. to get a good spot. When the clock strikes 8 a.m. the first huge firecracker explodes to start the run.
People hang on balconies, fences , scaffolding, and windows . They all bear witness to a thousand pounds of bad attitude and similar intent rumbling down the cobble stone streets. The crowd looks on as men with no fear and or no feeling from drinking all night run for their lives and try not to be trampled or worse yet, gored.
I met an American, Adam, and his friends who were just coming off a bender. They were contemplating running with the bulls. Contemplation soon went to action when their neighbor helped them with their decision by pushing them out of the doorway. They went from peeking out of the doorway, onto the bull’s path in a moments breath. I guess that’s a San Fermin way of saying Good Morning! They ran for cover.
The bulls end up in the Plaza de Toros, a bullfighting stadium. What happens next is for some crazy and for others, well, priceless. Some of the people who ran with the bulls in the street end up in the stadium where a younger bull is released into the crowd assembled on the arena floor.
The bulls charge at some of the makeshift matadors as they flee from the rapid advances of the toro. Some are not so lucky as they are drilled by the bull. Those who meet the business end of the bull’s horns are lucky as the horns are capped, but other parts not so much. One bull was so amped up he jumped the fence that creates a walk space for the matadors THREE times. The smart people scattered for higher ground.
Wesley, a college student who ran and ended up in the ring with the bulls stated it was not the best that everyone in the arena was cheering for the bulls. Ah, yeah, that’s the point. We came to see the people who volunteered to be accomplices to the bulls, as entertainment for the masses.
The bullfights starts in the evening (or as they say afternoon) around 6:30 p.m. Many people do not like this part of the event, as it seems tragic for the bull. But in case you are curious. in my opinion it is interesting. It was my first one, and the matadors – which means maestro per my ticket seller Javier – plays up the dramatic to get a response of the crowd.
This night the main guy is Paco. He dramatically entices the bull and then brings it’s existence to an end. Custom is that if the matador does well the head honcho calls for him to keep the ear of the Bull. Do you put that in a case or make a necklace out of that I wonder?
If you love being in a festive environment, plenty of party, concerts, impromptu parades, dancing, and oh yeah bulls, this is a must experience event.