|Intl. Notebook||Jul 8 2010|
Pulp Intl. at the Festival of San Fermin.
The Pamplonistas thought of it, but Hemingway made it famous. It’s the Festival of San Fermin, with its central event, the encierro, or running of the bulls. The shot at top shows it the way Hemingway probably saw it; the subsequent photo shows how many people visit the Festival today. As we mentioned in a previous post, Ernest Hemingway inspired multitudes to imitate his lifestyle. His descriptions of the encierro, which he folded into the narrative of his exquisitely romantic and desolate debut novel The Sun Also Rises, exposed the English-speaking world to Pamplona's signature event. And like the bulls, the people came running.
The encierro happens fast. We were camped out near the beginning of the route, where the bulls are released, and they simply blazed by. There is no running “with” the bulls at that point—they rattle past like a freight train. We’ve been told, though, that after this uphill stretch, two tight turns, and some mid-course congestion, they tend to slow down a bit, which invites closer interaction with the runners, aka mozos. We saw none of that. In the few seconds we had we shot three photos, which you see just below. In the first two, the runners are looking back at the approaching horde of men and beasts, and in the third the bulls are a blur.
You’ve probably heard that the encierro is dangerous, but the truth of that depends on your idea of danger. Deaths average two per decade, including one last year. That isn't going to get most people quaking in their espadrilles, but injuries are common—this morning there were four minor horn wounds, one broken ankle and, we’d guess, several dozen bruises and scrapes. So the question is, how do you like those odds? The odds for the bulls are not so good—six will be killed in the plaza de toros this evening. We won’t bother with any polemics about the tradition of bullfighting, or animal murder, depending on your view. We’re not from Spain, thus we don’t feel we have the right to comment. How’s that for a refreshing attitude?
Below, we’ve expropriated photos of some of San Fermin’s finest cornadas, which we’ll have to take down in a day or two to avoid any copyright issues. In panel 13 you see last year’s fatal goring (a horn through the top of the left shoulder, severing the brachial artery and shredding a lung), and in panel 14 you see a horn piercing the underside of an unfortunate mozo’s chin, though non-fatally. These are both atypical injuries—a bull rakes upward with its horns and usually hooks a human in the groin region (or the ass if you happen to be running away like a sensible person). In the final shot, panel 15, you see how the men of Pamplona separate themselves from the boys—in the plaza de toros they crouch en masse in the bull’s path and force it to leap over them. You want to show you’ve got true cojones? Try that.