7/9/09

A San Firmin Run

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"Of course i know some people are against it and some people are "aficionados" but at the end when its great its simply amazing. Rodeo in the U.S, Polo in Argentina, socker sometimes can be beautiful to ..."


The festival of San Fermín in the city of Pamplona (Navarre, Spain), is a deeply rooted celebration held annually from 12:00, 6 July, when the opening of the fiesta is marked by setting off the pyrotechnic chupinazo, to midnight 14 July, with the singing of the Pobre de Mí. While its most famous event is the encierro, the running of the bulls, the biggest day is 7 July, when thousands of people accompany a replica of the statue of Saint Fermin along the streets in the old part of Pamplona. San Fermin is accompanied by dancers and street entertainers, such as the Gigantes (giant-sized figures who represent the King and Queen of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America) and the Cabezudos (the Bigheads). The week-long celebration involves many other traditional and folkloric events. It is known locally as Sanfermines and is held in honor of Saint Fermin, the co-patron of Navarra. Its events were central to the plot of The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, which brought it to the general attention of English-speaking people. It has become probably the most internationally renowned fiesta in Spain. Over 1.000.000 people come to watch this festival.



The Running of the Bulls

The encierro meaning:to be closed in, involves many hundreds of people running in front of six bulls and another six steers down an 825-metre (0.51 mile) stretch of narrow streets of a section of the old town of Pamplona.



Preparation

Although each morning's premiere event starts at 8 a.m., the runners have gathered at least an hour earlier in an area at the beginning of the route called Cuesta de Santo Domingo to ask for the protection of the Saint by singing a chant three times before a small statue of San Fermin which has been placed in a raised niche in a wall.
A San Fermin pedimos, por ser nuestro patrón, nos guíe en el encierro, dándonos su bendición.(2x) Viva San Fermín. Gora San Fermin. ("We ask San Fermín, because he is our Patron, to guide us through the bull run, giving us his blessing.(2x)"),
with a red handkerchief (the pañuelo) tied about their necks, and some wearing a red sash (the faja) tied around their waist. Anyone who survives a close encounter with a bull is said to have been protected by San Fermin's cloak.



The actual run

The encierro begins at 8:00 a.m. sharp when the first cohete firecracker is lit to announce the release of the bulls from their corral. A second Whipcracker signals that the last bull has left the corral.
The event is dangerous. Since 1925, 15 people have been killed (most recently, a 20-year-old American in 1995 and a Navarra man who died 2 September 2003, after falling into a coma after the run), and over 2000 have been seriously injured. Most injuries nowadays, however, are caused by the increasing rush of participants seeking to run with the powerful bulls. The organizers release multi-lingual guides (with safety tips) to accompany the running event: it is strongly recommended that these be read beforehand.



Since the publication of Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises about the event, a large percentage of runners are foreigners. Most lack the experience and skill needed to run safely in the encierro. Local people, as well as Spaniards from other areas of Spain, have had more opportunity to practice, having grown up with other encierros, bull and cow festivals, which used to be held in a wider space than in the historic center of Pamplona.

Ernest Hemingway

Stray bulls might become extremely distracted. Therefore, the organizers send a "second wave" of "cabestros",or heifers ( in heat ) to run through the streets after the "first wave," in order to collect any stragglers. The shops and residences along the course are boarded up to prevent damage by either bull or human during the race. One particular stretch of the course, called Mercaderes, is particularly notorious for injuries on its sharp turn. On rainy days the bulls cannot turn well on the streets, and often collide into the wall; tear marks from the sharp horns against the pulp wood barriers give an indication as to the events of days before. While locals are always keen to avoid this corner, it is not uncommon to see tourists getting trampled and seriously injured there.



The course concludes at Pamplona's Plaza de Toros, and the bulls are herded inside the corralillos until the afternoon's corrida.
Once all of the bulls have entered the arena, a third rocket is released while a fourth firecracker indicates that the bulls are in their bullpens and the run has concluded. Some participants of the encierro remain in the arena, when vaquillas emboladas (young cows with wrapped horns) are released among them and toss the participants, to the general amusement of the crowd.