Running with the Bulls
Pamplona's Fearsome Festival Gets Underway
Spain is renowned for its bull fights and Pamplona's San Fermin Festival capitalizes on this tradition. With nine days and nights of bull runs, it's not surprising that there have been some nasty injuries in the festival's history. There was a collective sigh of relief then as proceedings got off to a relatively a safe start this year.
Waving their red bandanas and cheering in anticipation, thousands of people crowded onto the streets of Pamplona on Monday, July 6 to witness the start of the annual San Fermin festival. Locals and tourists danced on the streets as the nine-day extravanganza began with a rocket being fired from the city hall at noon sharp.
San Fermin is known throughout the world for its main attraction -- the bull runs which take place every morning at 8 a.m. local time. Each day, six fighting bulls and two herds of bullocks run the 825 meter route from their pens in Santo Domingo to the bull ring, where they fight in the afternoon. They chase adrenaline junkies through the enclosed streets of Pamplona, often trampling on anyone not quick enough to get out of their way. This year, reports suggest that 2,000 people took part in the first run.
People arrive in Spain from all across the globe to take part in the first run on Tuesday morning. Victor Gaona, a 26 year-old tourist from Mexico, described the run as "incredible." "I saw a bull fall in front of me, and it is an unforgettable experience," he told the Associated Press. Another tourist, Mark Kowalski of Alberta, Canada also braved the run. "I feared for my life. It was pretty intense," said 23-year-old runner told AP.
It's not all fun and games though. So far this year, the Spanish Red Cross has only reported treating four people with minor injuries, but the festival has seen major casualties and even fatalities in its history. Fourteen people have died as a result of the bull runs since records began in 1924, the last victim being 22 year-old Matthew Tassio in 1995. But this will not deter thousands of thrillseekers from descending onto the streets this year. Anyone can join in -- as long as you arrive in good time, dressed in white and sporting a red neckerchief, you're free to try your luck against the bulls.
The festival, which dates back to the thirteenth century, is named after the patron saint, San Fermin, who is said to protect the runners from the bulls. In keeping with tradition, a procession was held on Tuesday July 7, during which a statue of the saint was paraded along the streets of Pamplona in his honor.
Those attending the event can look forward to a total of nine days of bull runs, parties and celebrations. Festivities will continue until July 14 and will culminate in a spectacular show of fireworks at midnight.