It is San Fermin in Pamplona this week. Although the running of the bulls is what you see on the international news as a Spanish curiosity, in fact it’s just a small bovine transportation issue during a huge religious festival.
The origin of running of the bulls was not the brain child of bored drunk people with a penchant for goring. The bullring doesn’t have enough room for a proper corral, so the animals are kept about 800 meters away. Every morning of the festival, at 8:00 am, when theoretically the streets should be quiet, the animals for that day’s bullfights are run from the corral to the ring. But now the poor things have a million drunk people in white pants and red scarves helping them along. Blame Hemingway. He loved San Fermin and made it famous in “The Sun Also Rises”.
“Only” 15 people have died in the history of the running, although 200-300 are injured every year. Most of them are tourists. Rogelio always shakes his head and waves his fists at the tourists. He watches the running live every morning without fail.
“They should leave it to the experts, the tourists don’t know the technique.”
Apparently there is a correct way to yell at the bull while yanking his tail. Drunken stupidity is not credential enough to correctly endanger one’s life.
Pamplona is a beautiful, small city. It has less than 200,000 inhabitants but is home to an extra million during San Fermin. Check out the crowd at the end of this video. Where do you think all those people eat, sleep and pee for 8 days?
The first time I went to Pamplona, by chance and without knowing, I arrived the day after San Fermin. It was a garbage covered ghost town. Not a single bar or store open, not a single upright person to be found. But every shaded greenspace was full of sleeping bodies dressed in red and white. I thought I had walked into the apocalypse.
I have never experienced a more peaceful day in urban Spain to date.