mount_oregano: Let me see (Weather vane)

The San Fermín fiesta has begun in Pamplona, Spain, and its most famous activity, the running of the bulls — encierro in Spanish. Every day at 8 a.m starting today and continuing to July 14, bulls will run through downtown from pens to the bullring, and thousands of people will run with them.

Today’s run featured bulls from the Dolores Aguirre ranch. It took them 2 minutes 53 seconds to cover the distance, and for the most part the bulls were “noble” and took little notice of the crowds. However, one man, age 73, was gored in the leg shortly after the bulls left the pen, and at the end, a bull’s horn caught a man’s collar and kerchief (red kerchiefs are traditional at the fiesta) and he was dragged down the street into the bullring. He suffered only a few bruises.

You can see it here:

Note that there are six bulls accompanied by six steers, which are tan-colored, larger, and wear bells. The steers know the route and make sure the bulls don’t get lost or frightened.

The goal of a runner (as opposed to los valientes, the “valiant” participants who stand off to the side and avoid the bulls as much as possible) is to run directly in front of the horns. The massive number of runners on weekends makes this more difficult, and several runners were injured in falls as a result of the crowds.

Of course, the fiesta includes a lot more activities. The official poster (above) depicts one of the “big heads,” specifically a character that roams through the streets and chases people, especially children, to their delight. The fiesta also offers music, dancing, religious processions for Saint Fermín, and fireworks.

You can follow the Sanfermines at the website of Radio Television Española, which has covered the fiesta since 1982. A staff of 70 people and 30 cameras are hard at work. Scroll all the way down on the page and you can watch the encierro from different cameras along the route:

Why run with the bulls? Though he was speaking about something else, Robert A. Heinlein explained it concisely: “Nothing gives you more zest than running for your life.”

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (Weather vane)

In honor of August:

On August 6, 1881, Alexander Fleming was born in Scotland. He became a doctor and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps throughout World War I. When he returned, he began to search for new anti-bacterial agents because he had seen many soldiers die of infected wounds.

In September 1928, he discovered that a fungus had destroyed some of his experimental bacterial cultures. By the end of the month, he had cultured the mold and found that it produced a substance that killed many bacteria. Soon, he had named it penicillin after its genus.

It proved hard to grow and refine, but after he abandoned it in 1940, some chemists began to work on it to produce the world's first antibiotic for troops in World War II. By 1945, they had mastered mass production.

Penicillin has saved hundreds of millions of lives. The drug became one of the 20th century's most important discoveries and Fleming one of its most important people.

Why would this matter to bullfighters? They get gored a lot on the job, around once a year. Some injuries are minor, but all are dangerous.

Bull horns are rough and fighting bulls are not bathed before entering the ring, so the horns introduce bacteria and other infectious agents into deep wounds. Recovery can be difficult, but it was much more dangerous before antibiotics.

That's why bullfighters collected money to erect a monument in 1964 to Alexander Fleming. It stands outside Las Ventas bullring in Madrid, one of the biggest and the most important in the world.

Bullfighting has seen better days. Besides an anti-bullfighting movement, which has existed for centuries, the current economic crisis has meant cutbacks. A decade ago, Spain had about 2,000 bullfights a year. In 2010, there were 1,487. While surveys show that most Spaniards oppose a ban, most aren't interested in bullfighting, either.

If Ernest Hemingway were to come to a bullfight today, he wouldn't see many changes, and he wouldn't see many young faces in the stands. That's bad, says Manuel Molés, director of Los Toros program on SER radio. "We can't live without innovation."

Antonio Lorca, a bullfighting critic for El País newspaper, says the fiesta has lost its excitement. "Its star, the bull, has ceased to be a fierce and powerful animal and has become a sickly antagonist who provokes more pity than respect." Fighting bulls are no longer bred to be as dangerous as they used to.

"Today's bull is no good for this eternal fiesta based on thoroughbreds, on the fierceness and bravery of a powerful and challenging animal that creates fear and glorifies the bullfighter who manages to defeat it in passionate battle. But today there is no battle, not even a quarrel. At most, some childish and insipid capework worthy of a schoolyard."

He identifies the culprits: "There are too many ranches, too many bullfighters, too many businesses, and more importantly, too many egos and too much selfishness to allow the purity of the fiesta and the interests of the spectator to prevail."

What should the spectator want? Salvador Boix, a musician who defends bullfighting, says danger is key to the spectacle:

"We live in a society of fear. Fear if it's cold in winter and hot in summer, fear of the nuclear threat, even more fears than society is actually suffering. The bullfighter incarnates the conquest of fear, the respect for his adversary, the will to overcome, qualities that are more and more rare. That's why I'd recommend going to a bullfight at least once. It will put all those fears behind."

Canal+ has video highlights of major bullfights at:

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (Weather vane)

The Saint Fermin fiesta has begun, and this morning bulls ran through the streets of Pamplona.

This year's official poster is a play on words. "To get yourself wet" could be translated as "take the plunge" or "get involved," even "take a risk." There's plenty to do at the fiesta besides bulls: music, dancing, parades, fireworks, religious services, and children's activities.

And lots of drinking. More people die by getting drunk and falling off the city walls or falling into the river and drowning than at the horns of a bull. In fact, no one has been gored to death since 1995. Perhaps that's because Saint Fermin protects the runners, but drunks don't have a patron saint that I know of.

The fiesta opened yesterday at noon, and two foreign tourists were soon hospitalized because, as foreign tourists tend to do, they climbed up to the top of the big fountain in the Plaza de Navarrería and jumped, expecting to be caught by the crowd below, but sometimes the crowd isn't up to the job. Alcohol at work.

Today was the first of eight runs: no gorings, four minor injuries from bruises and cuts, and plenty of wine-stained fools making potentially fatal errors.

You can watch the runs here:

Here's everything you ever wanted to know about the run, courtesy of the Pamplona municipal government, in English:

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (NightFallsOnEurope)

For my friends who are Bollywood fans: A film called Zindagi milegi da dobara (You Only Live Once) is being shot in Spain right now. It's the story of three young men who travel to Europe, and each plans a unique experience for the rest.

One involves running with the bulls in Pamplona, so on July 15, the day after the real fiesta ended, the film company hired 40 experienced runners, 300 extras from Pamplona, and six tame bulls to recreate the run. To see why they used tame bulls rather than real fighting bulls, see this video of the July 14 run, in which four people were gored:

Another young man's experience involves the Tomatina in Buñol, near Valencia: an enormous annual tomato fight. To recreate that, the film company hired 500 extras and bought 26 tons of tomatoes. The real Tomatina involves 40,000 people and 110 tons of tomatoes:

More scenes will be shot in Seville and other Spanish cities and towns. The film is being directed by Zoya Akhtar and stars Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, and Katrina Kaif, along with Abhay Deol, Kalki Koechlin and Ariadna Cabrol. Kanzaman films expects to release the film in April 2011.

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (Weather vane)

On Saturday, my husband and I went to Aranjuez to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. It's a small city south of Madrid that beckons tourists with its Renaissance royal palace and elegant riverside gardens, as well as its famously good asparagus, strawberries, and restaurants.

Last weekend was also the Fiesta for Aranjuez's patron saint, San Fernando. A common morning Spanish fiesta entertainment involves bovines, so we went to the 200-year-old bullring for the Suelta de Vaquillas, the Release of Heifers.

In this event, a young cow of fighting bull breed is let out into the ring, where she chases people around for about 15 minutes or until she gets tired, when she's replaced. Anyone at least 18 years old can jump into the ring to temp fate, and a few even came with capes. A real bullfighter, dressed in a tee-shirt and baseball cap, was on hand to help handle the animal.

Why cows? They're cheaper than fighting bulls, which cost thousands of euros each. You also shouldn't let a bull observe people closely, then try to fight him, because the bull will have learned too much. Even in places with a running of the bulls like Pamplona (Aranjuez didn't have that), the animals let into the ring after the run are usually female calves and heifers.

Young animals are obviously safer – but not that much. The Spanish fighting bull breed is big, wily, aggressive, and ill-tempered. Even female calves have killed people.

We paid a euro each, entered the ring, and climbed up to the shady balcony seats.

The first vaquilla may have been fierce, but she tired out too fast to tell. The second and third ones had some fight. No one was hurt, by the way, though the bullfighter did lose his pink baseball hat in a kerfluffle and someone used it like a cape to lure the cow, and everyone laughed.

You'll notice the people in the ring are all young men. One young woman came out to challenge the bull with the help of a boyfriend or brother. She enjoyed a good chase, got a round of applause, and left the ring. Women rarely if ever run with the bulls or take part in "dodge-bull" events in bullrings. I know of no female bullfighters working right now. Spanish women just don't do these things. No law stops them, and Spanish women are quite assertive. But they're also not stupid.

I wouldn't mess with these animals. They can kill you. I'm afraid of them. That's one reason why we sat far up in the ring. They can jump higher than you might expect, and once in a while they do.

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (Gredos4)

In this the last running of the bulls in 2009, relatively few runners filled the streets of Pamplona, and the encierro went fast and smooth, only 2 minutes 20 seconds. The bulls from the Nuñez de Cuvilla Ranch were small but strong. One broke away from the pack and charged down the street, shoving runners out of the way, and arrived at the ring in only 1 minute 50 seconds, almost record time.

No gorings or major injuries marred the run, and I laughed to see experienced runners get tossed aside. They know how to fall and they expect to fall, so they had a good time, too.

La Cuatro has a nice slow-motion video of today's run that ends with the dismantling of the fences for the year, a tribute to the runner who died, and the statue of San Fermín that presides over the run:

Here's the video from TVE, with the always intelligent and educational commentary by Javier Solano:

If you want to run in an encierro, or just witness one, I recommend the fiestas at San Sebastian de los Reyes, a suburb of Madrid, which will be held August 26 to 31 this year. It's known as "Little Pamplona" for its careful organization and attention to safety. Not every encierro is like that. In El Pilón, the course runs down a mountain, so if you fall down, it might be a long way down.

"Sanse" attracts many of the same skilled runners you've seen in the videos from Pamplona, and it has all the adventure without the insane crowds. The Madrid subway will get you there conveniently, with a station right next to the bullring.

More information (in Spanish):

Here's my blog entry after attending an encierro at Sanse in 2007:

At midnight tonight, the Fiestas de San Fermín end with fireworks and the "Pobre de mí," a candlelight gathering in front of City Hall. Everyone sings, "Pobre de mí, pobre de mí, que se han acabado the fiestas of San Fermín. (Poor me, poor me, the fiesta of San Fermín is over.)" Then Pamplona immediately begins the countdown to next year.

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (Gredos2)

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...."

mount_oregano: Let me see (Gredos1)

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

mount_oregano: Let me see (Picasso)

This is from the report Hemingway filed in 1923 about his first running of the bulls in Pamplona, when he and his wife (Herself) were the only English-speakers in town.


... It was really a double wooden fence, making a long entryway from the main street of the town to the bull ring itself. It made a runway about two hundred and fifty yards long. People were jammed solid on each side of it. Looking up it toward the main street.

Then far away there was a dull report.

"They're off," everybody shouted.

"What is it?" I asked a man next to me who was leaning far out over the concrete rail.

"The bulls! They have released them from the corrals on the far side of the city. They are racing through the city."

"Whew," said Herself. "What do they do that for?"

Then down the narrow fenced-in runway came a crowd of men and boys running. Running as hard as they could go. The gate feeding them into the bull ring was opened and they all ran pell-mell under the entrance levels into the ring. Then there came another crowd. Running even harder. Straight up the long pen from the town.

"Where are the bulls?" asked Herself.

Then they came in sight. Eight bulls galloping along, full tilt, heavy set, black, glistening, sinister, their horns bare, tossing their heads. And running with them three steers with bells on their necks. They ran in a solid mass, and ahead of them sprinted, tore, ran and bolted the rear guard of the men and boys of Pamplona who had allowed themselves to be chased through the streets for a morning's pleasure.

A boy in his blue shirt, red sash, white canvas shoes with the inevitable leather wine bottle hung from his shoulders, stumbled as he sprinted down the straightaway. The first bull lowered his head and made a jerky, sideways toss. The boy crashed up against the fence and lay there limp, the herd running solidly together passed him up. The crowd roared.

Everybody made a dash for the inside of the ring, and we got into a box just in time to see the bulls come into the ring filled with men. The men ran in a panic to each side. The bulls, bunched solidly together, ran straight with the trained steers across the ring and into the entrance that led to the pens.

That was the entry. Every morning during the bull fighting festival of San Fermin at Pamplona the bulls that are to fight in the afternoon are released from their corrals at six o'clock in the morning and race through the main street of the town for a mile and a half to the pen. The men who run ahead of them do it for the fun of the thing....

mount_oregano: Let me see (Spice2)
In Pamplona, they always run bulls from the Miura Ranch on the weekend because they tend to be "noble": generous and forgiving to runners. Exceptionally big, these bulls usually race through the streets like snow plows, pushing aside runners, but they rarely attack.

Not today.

A black and white bull named Ermitaño (Hermit), 575 kilos/1,265 pounds, caused most of the five gorings and other injuries during the five-minute run. Two were especially serious, and the last news I heard, three hours after the run, said both men were not in danger of death, which is a relief and a surprise.

The most serious injury came at the entry to the bull ring, when Ermitaño gored a runner in the thigh and threw him, then gored him in the chest, then attacked him again. The man was dragged from the street to safety with his chest spurting blood.

You can watch it here from Cuatro TV. There are other serious attacks, but this one begins at 3:35. You will see several runners grabbing the bull by the tail to try to pull it off. This is the right thing to do. The runner in white pants and a green and white shirt is especially experienced, and this is not the first time he has put himself at risk to help other runners. He's not the only one, just the easiest to point out.

More Cuatro footage of the goring. Not suitable for children or anyone troubled by violence and bloodshed.

TVE video with commentary, and the attack and events leading up to it are more clearly observed. I say that as a warning.

Miura bulls are usually run on weekends because, instead of 2,000 runners, as there are on weekdays, there may be 3,000, which causes security concerns. July 14 is Bastille Day in France, so it's a long weekend there, and French tourists arrive for the fiesta.

After the run, TVE interviewed an experienced runner who was at the attack. He thought today's injuries and the death on Friday might have a positive aspect. He worried about the size of the crowd and about the ignorance of many runners. "Son toros. They are bulls," he said, and not everyone seems to understand what that means. "Es importante que sepan en dónde se meten. It's important for them to know what they're getting into." Perhaps this will remind them.

Was he afraid of running now? No, nothing had changed. "Voy todos los días con miedo. I come every day with fear."

That was my Sunday morning breakfast.

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (SpainAtNight)

Yesterday's bullfight in Pamplona opened with a minute of silence for Daniel Jimeno Romero, the runner who had died earlier that day in the encierro. The first bull of the afternoon was Capuchino, the animal that had killed him. The matador El Fandi fought it well, dedicating it to Jimeno, and earned an ear.

Jimeno, from Alcalá de Henares, a suburb of Madrid, ran often with the bulls both in Pamplona and in the "Little Pamplona" at San Sebastian de los Reyes, another suburb of Madrid. In yesterday's run, he had fallen near the fence and was trying to duck out under it when the bull came up from behind and gored him downward through the neck.

Medics pulled him under the fence, and a doctor was at his side within four seconds, but the horn had ripped open his lung and artery. He was taken to the hospital immediately for surgery, but nothing could be done.

Jimeno, 27, was known as El Nenuco, "the Little Baby," among his friends for his babyface. He went to Pamplona with his family to run with his friends, and his friends ran again this morning. "Es un encierro, ¿no?" one of them somberly told TVE when asked how he felt. "It's a running of the bulls, isn't it?"

Danger is constant. People can die. Even friends. That's an encierro. If you run, you accept that.

A section of fence next to where he died was covered with red scarves and sashes and flowers in tribute. (Photo from El País newspaper: )

Today's run lasted 2 minutes 54 seconds, with bulls from the Dolores Aguirre Ranch. There were few injuries and no gorings. The most notable moment came toward the end when an idiot runner stupidly approached a bull, apparently to try to grab the horns. He deserved to be gored, but he only got a good thrashing.

You can watch the whole run, with commentary by Javier Solana (in Spanish) at:

You can watch just the "imprudencia" in this 19-second video:

The slow-motion video at Cuatro TV, with background music, includes a tribute to Jimeno in the beginning, and strives to be more dramatic:

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (Seedlings3)

Capuchino, a 515-kilo/1,133 pound brown bull from the Jandilla Ranch came out of the corrals in Pamplona eager to attack, and he shed blood at the beginning and end of the encierro today. In all, 4 gorings, one fatal, all by Capuchino, and other injuries.

The fatal goring occurred in the Telefónica section of the run, the stretch just before the entrance to the bullring near the Telefónical offices. The young man was gored in the neck, and the horn reached down to the lungs, damaging a major artery and vein. Daniel Jimeno Romero, 27, from Alcalá de Henares, a city near Madrid, died after surgery.

The encierro took 4 minutes 29 seconds, and can be seen here:

TVE. The brown bull's second round of attacks appears in the second half of the video.

Various videos from Cuatro television. One shows the young man being attended by Red Cross medics.

Bulls from Jandilla hold the record for the number of gorings in one day, 8 on July 12, 2004. They're also among the fastest of the bulls. Capuchino separated himself immediately from the herd. The other bulls, all black, ran together like speeding locomotives but spread out enough to allow runners to get close for excellent runs. The black bulls reached the bullring within 1 minute 50 seconds.

They do not seem to have caused any gorings or injuries, but an attack or accident can happen so fast that it can be overlooked by observers. The number of injuries today grew during the hour after the run as more reports arrived from medics and more ambulances arrived at hospitals.

The last encierro death in Pamplona occurred in 2003, of head injuries sustained when the runner was run over by a Cebada Gago bull. There have been 15 deaths since 1922.

The bulls that run each morning are fought in the bullring each evening. Yesterday, the bullfighter known as El Cid was gored in the thigh and the scrotum, and was taken from the ring for surgery in the bullring operating room, and then to the hospital.

People ask me why I'm interested in the encierros. Well, it's the extreme behavior: courage and lunacy, deliberation and fatalism, frivolity and death — an intoxicating combination, with special emphasis on "toxic." You will notice that I do not run.

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (ColorfulMe)

I am fascinated by the running of the bulls in Spain and never miss the live coverage of the run from Pamplona. Several years ago, I learned that they run with the bulls in Leganés, a suburb of Madrid, every August. I decided to go, and my long-suffering husband went with me. This is my report.

Now I know why I'll never be as famous as Ernest Hemingway.

Few people got off the commuter train with us at Leganés. Few were on the streets — no surprise, it was dawn on a Sunday. We had a map and started to look for the city center, and soon discovered decorated streets — with piles of trash in the gutters that sparkled with the glint of crushed plastic drinking glasses.

We joined a surge of loud young people heading toward the run. Most were carrying cups of beer and bottles of oddly-colored Coca-Cola. Some of them were drunk, very drunk.

Many wore dirty, damp t-shirts, stained from drinks. The shirts were for peñas, the clubs that organize events in fiestas. I had seen men on television the day before from the Peña de 19 or the Peña de Pepina talking about how they organized the run. How nice, I thought, these young people are helping out in the fiesta. That eventually proved wrong.

I spotted the truck delivering the bulls. People were picking their spots at barricades on the streets. There was a sharp turn in the route at the corner near the Telefónica office. In Pamplona, the turn at the Ayuntamiento is always a fascinating place. The Leganés turn had big plywood boards over the railings warning that there might be challenges to man and beast. So we staked out a spot.

Above us, a man sat on the railing, which was a good two meters high, chatting with his plump girlfriend. Eventually he jumped down and joined the runners waiting in the street. He was a slim young man in his early 20s with a red farmer's scarf around his neck, an echo of people wearing red fiesta scarves. He jumped around, loosening up.

More drunks came past. Friends greeted each other, watched the runners prepare, and heckled them. A man behind the railing imitated a chicken. Runners got ready for their athletic adventure by smoking cigarets. One wore a soiled t-shirt, Que alguien me pare, "Somebody stop me." A first-aid worker watched, standing on the railing, rubber gloves on his hands. A cop waited. A cameraman for Localia TV took pictures. From down the street came music, the Spanish national anthem. The minutes continued to pass.

Then the chupinazo boomed, the firework that announces that the bulls have been released. The runners jumped. They began running down the street — or ducked under the railing. The young man with the red farmer's scarf leaped back to his spot above my head. We stood there, watching the bare street.

Soon, the thunder of hoofs approached, and the bulls ran past, thrillingly close, almost close enough to touch, black and handsome. And all alone. No runners in sight.

We began following the crowd down the street toward the bullfighting ring. We passed a lot of groups of people shouting and laughing, holding glasses of beer or bottles of odd-colored Coke. One man lay on the sidewalk, eyes closed, a placid look on his face, apparently overcome by alcohol.

We squeezed past an ambulance, and where people had crowded to look at what was going on. Someone was being put inside. A Red Cross volunteer spoke into a two-way radio. I learned later that a man had run without a shirt and fallen down on the rough asphalt.

That was the big injury. No bulls involved.

We passed a group of young people in a peña playing pop music at ear-shattering levels, and a few members danced in the street — actually, they stumbled around drunkenly. One man lowered his pants and wiggled lewdly. Another unzipped and began to urinate. Both were cheered by their friends, who were standing or sprawled on the sidewalk. I managed to read their t-shirts: Peña de Diez Años de Desgraciadas. Club of Ten Years of Disgraceful Behavior.

We walked past the loud music and, finally, when we were out of danger of deafness, we got a cup of coffee in a pastry shop. The people there were talking about the run. The woman who owned it took out a red fiesta scarf and played bullfighter with it.

A patron having his morning brandy told me, "I don't care much for the bulls, but something for everyone, right? The thing is, you shouldn't run drunk, and a lot of people do. You need to be careful, and you can't if you're drunk. One mistake is enough."

True. You might fall down and hurt yourself.

We continued on. It was 8:45 a.m. We passed another group of cheerful, noisy, falling-down-drunks, the Peña de los Guarros, the Club of the Swinish Louts. We decided to take a short detour through the heart of town, past the Plaza de España. Despite the recent hosing-down by Department of Sanitation, it smelled like an outhouse. Another drunk peña was blasting music across from a big church that somehow seemed to have worshipers despite the noise.

We passed the Plaza de la Fuente Honda. Its attractive fountain was filled with floating red plastic café chairs.

We returned to the train station and caught the commuter train back to Madrid. I had been to a running of the bulls. Any good Hemingway-inspired writer in Spain ought to do that and report back about the courage, the drama, the adventure, the poetry, the miracles and tragedies, the metaphors of life and death, and the ultimate truths of humankind.

I came away with something astonishing to tell the folks back home.

But I don't think I will.

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (Spice2)

The bulls from El Ventorrillo Ranch took only 2 minutes 20 seconds to run through downtown Pamplona this morning, accompanied by thousands of men and a few women. No gorings, a few injuries, mostly from falls, and a "clean" run. The pack stayed together until the end of Estafeta Street, when some bulls tripped over runners.

You can watch the video here at La Cuatro Television, with a helpful map:

And you can watch it here at TVE, Televisión Española, with expert commentary by Javier Solano:

Why are the runs unusually fast? There are several reasons, the biggest being that the bulls have not paused to attack anyone. But one is perhaps the most interesting.

Just as the top human runners prepare for the encierros and arrive in good athletic condition, in the past couple of years the ranches have been training the bulls, using dogs and horses to make them run laps in their pastures. The bulls also arrive in top athletic condition, ready to run.

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (Spice1)

Bulls from the Cebada Gago Ranch have a bad reputation: big, strong, and bad-tempered.

They've always struck me as self-confident, too. That quality shone in today's run. Despite the crowds, the bulls ran fast, only 2 minutes 35 seconds. Runners got plenty of chances to run just ahead of the horns — briefly, because any bull can outrun any human easily, but running in that spot is the pinnacle experience of an encierro.

One runner got gored in the gluteus in Estafeta Street, apparently not seriously.

Fighting bulls are raised without human contact because they are smart and would quickly learn so much about humans that no bullfighter could control one in the ring. The bulls at the encierro sometimes get upset by all the commotion and even afraid, and when they're afraid, they attack.

But the Cebada Gago bulls never seemed to feel threatened, even though I saw one runner actually hitting one of them. Perhaps that idiot felt brave. The bull seemed to consider him an annoyance too petty to be worth even a glance in reproach, let alone an attack. The idiot was lucky.

In addition to sites I mentioned Monday and Tuesday, here are some good URLs about the Fiestas de San Fermín.

A special section at the website of El País, Spain's leading newspaper:

Cuatro television's coverage:
Direct link to a slow-motion video, with background music, of today's run:

A fun site hosted by Kukuxumusu, a cartoon-based business, in English (mostly):

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (SpainAtNight)

Bulls from the Alcurrucén Ranch ran through Pamplona this morning, and they were fast: only 2 minutes 30 seconds from corral to bull ring. No one was gored, though about three or four runners were treated for minor injuries.

The bulls knocked down quite a few runners, however, as you can see in this photo by EFE. You can also watch this video of the entire encierro, with commentary by Javier Solano. He has of 21 years of experience covering the run, and before that, he ran in the encierro. (Commentary in Spanish, como Dios manda):

I saw two well-known, highly experienced runners get knocked down, which teaches us that although you may know what you're doing, if what you're doing is crazy, your wisdom may not get you very far.

Radio Television Española has a very nice area in its website devoted to Fiestas de San Fermín:
The part No seas 'guiri' could be translated as "Don't be a stupid foreigner." It includes the suggestion that drinking until you pass out in the street is not a great idea.

— Sue Burke

mount_oregano: Let me see (Gredos1)

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:

"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


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