Each year in Spain there is a festival held called Pamplona's San Fermin. It is held to give thanks for the abundance of wine, as well as a celebration of the art of bullfighting. Pamplona is the capital of the winemaking region of Navarra.
During this festival, bulls are set loose on town streets while ambitious individuals try to run ahead of them down the narrow, cobblestoned streets. The results often lead to many injuries and in some cases even death. This year proved to be no different, as bulls were set loose on Saturday, July 7, 2007, at 8:00 a.m. So far there have been reports of seven people treated for minor injuries. These injuries included a minor shoulder injury and a man who was slightly gored (pierced with a horn), among other injuries.
The primary custom that leads up to this inhumane festival is that participants drink heavily before the run. They drink red wine or sangria. Then, they set out to outrun bulls that weigh up to 1,000 pounds. The rain on this particular Saturday did not help these individuals, as the streets were very slippery.
One particular participant, Victor Elbusto, 57, made his last run this Saturday after 40 years. He has only been gored once about 20 years ago. It has taken him 40 years to realize that he should stop before anything really serious happens to him. He is one of the few that can say they have run a valiant race all these years.
The annual festival officially begins at midday on July 6th every year. This is when literally thousands of people crowd the square in anticipation of the mayor's official announcement that the festival has begun. Once a rocket is launched into the air, the party activities begin.
It is thought that the Pamplona San Fermin festival is thought to have originated as far back as the 13th century, though it is not documented. The festival that takes place now is much different than its original intention. Today, folks are caught up in having a party and drinking heavily, along with running with the bulls, whereas in the years past it was considered a religious ceremony. In fact, the Spaniard's even moved this year's event to July 7th because it was decided that the bull run would be much more exciting with the rain falling.
The festival has world popularity. Many foreigners turn out every year to watch and participate in the festivities. Last year, more than 200,000 tourists visited Pamplona, according to the city government. One such participant this year is Matthew Genovese of washington, CT. He boasts how he drank all night while on his first visit ever to Pamplona.
Is this a historical event that has gone awry in Spain? It seems so to those of us looking in. But, if you ask any of the people who look forward to it every year, they would probably tell you it has only gotten better with time.
Discussion & Thought Questions
- Do you see this festival as a good one? Why or why not?
- What are some things they do at this festival that may raise concern?
- What would you do differently, if you were in charge of this festival?
- How likely would you participate in a festival similar to this where you live? Why or why not?
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