Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls

Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls


We’re here in early July for the
Festival of San Fermín and
that means the Running of the Bulls one of Europe’s
most exuberant festivals. For nine days each July,
throngs of visitors most dressed in the
traditional white with red
sashes and kerchiefs come to run with the bulls
and a whole lot more. The festival, which packs
the city, has deep roots. For centuries the people of this
region have honored Saint
Fermín, their patron saint, with processions and parties. He
was decapitated in the second
century for his faith and the red bandanas
you see everywhere are a distant reminder of his
martyrdom. And y’know I don t
think anybody on this square knows, or even cares.
But at the Church of San Fermín it’s a capacity crowd…and
there’s no question what to wear for this Mass. To
this day, locals look to their
hometown saint for protection. Back out
on the streets, it’s a party for young and old.
There’s plenty of fun for kids. And towering giants add a
playful mystique to the
festivities. The literary giant, Ernest
Hemingway, is celebrated by
Pamplona as if he were a native
son. Hemingway first came here for
the 1923 Running of the Bulls. Inspired by the spectacle, he
later wrote his bullfighting
classic “The Sun Also Rises.” He said he enjoyed seeing two
wild animals running together: one on two legs, and the other
on four. Hemingway put Pamplona
on the world map. When he first visited, it was a
dusty town of 30,000 with an
obscure bullfighting festival. Now, a million people a year
come here for one of the world’s
great parties. After dark, the town erupts
into a rollicking party scene. While the craziness
rages day and night, the city’s well organized and,
even with all the alcohol, it feels in control and
things go smoothly. Amazingly, in just a few hours,
this same street will host a
very different spectacle. The Running of the Bulls takes
place early each morning. Spectators claim a vantage point
along the barrier at the crack
of dawn. Early in the morning? Nope, for many of these
revelers… it’s still late at
night. The anticipation itself is
thrilling. Security crews sweep
those not running out of the way. Shop windows
and doors are boarded up. Fencing is set up to keep the
bulls on course and protect the
crowd. The runners are called mozos.
While many are just finishing up a night of
drinking, others train for the
event. They take the ritual seriously,
and run every year. At 8:00, a rocket is fired and
the mozos take off. Moments later a second rocket
means the bulls have been
released. They stampede half a mile
through the town from their pens to the bullfighting arena.
At full gallop, it goes by fast. Bulls thunder through the entire
route in just two and a half
minutes. The mozos try to run in front of
the bulls for as long as
possible usually just a few seconds
before diving out of the way. They say on a good run you feel
the breath of the bull on the
back of your legs. Cruel as this all
seems for the bulls who scramble for footing on
the cobblestones as they rush
toward their doom in the
bullring the human participants
don’t come out unscathed. Each year, dozens of people are
gored or trampled. Over the last century, 15 mozos
have been killed at the event. After it’s done, people gather
for breakfast and review the
highlights on TV. All day long, local channels
replay that morning’s spectacle. The finale of the event each day
is in the evening when crowds
fill the bull ring. Pamplona’s arena, the third
biggest in the world after Madrid and Mexico City, is
sold out each day of the
festival. One by one the bulls that ran
that morning explode out of the
gate to meet their matador first the picadores… then the banderilleros… and finally the matador in his
sparkling suit of light. While cruel brutality to
many, others still consider bullfighting an art form.
It’s hard for me to appreciate, but to the Spaniards who pack
this arena, there’s a nobility
to the beast and an elegance to the fight. Good matadors are
like rock stars they perform with drama, daring,
and grace. With each thrilling
pass, the crowds cheer until the bull meets his
predictable end. If the fight is
deemed a good one, the people wave kerchiefs and
call for a trophy to be awarded. For this fight, the matador is
given an ear from his victim and struts triumphantly
around the arena. The festival’s energy courses
through the city. Overlooking
the main square, the venerable Café Iruña
pulses with music and dance. Enjoying the scene, with its
delightful 1888 interior, I’m impressed by the joyful
enthusiasm the people of this
town have for their festival of San Fermín.

29 thoughts on “Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls

  1. Inhumane practice, disgusting, will unsubscribe from this channel that is promoting this bedouinish savagery. So savage, no wonder EuroPeon joining America's ISIS.

  2. 4:30 That guy is so lucky those horns only slapped him. A few more inches and those tips would have impaled him through the throat.

  3. I enjoy your language devices, Rick!
    Your videos help me to learn beautiful English. Perfect. As for this festival, and corridas, I find them totally severe and inhumane. They make me doubt the wisdom of some traditions, not only in Spain, but in Russia as well and wherever in the world, when they counter common sense. Nevertheless, your videos are so educational and broaden my outlook. Thank you.

  4. Good one Rick, I hear what you're saying about not fully appreciating the sport in the same way as the Spaniards. I don't see the appeal myself, but it's different of course when it's a traditional part of the culture. Interesting to get a taste of the festival. Was this filmed last summer?

  5. VILE. Time for me to unsubscribe from your channel Rick. Very very disappointed to see you actually promoting such a disgusting so called festival that is cruel and medieval.

  6. I've used your guides all over the world and have trusted your advice for years. I am so disappointed in you, Rick. Just because something is tradition doesn't make it right. Many terrible things are done in the name of tradition and as we evolve we need to question those things and do better. I'll be unsubscribing and using different travel guides in the future.

  7. It's such a popular event. Rick Steves had to film the festival. I think Rick Steves wanted to show the audience that crowds of revelers aren't more civilized than animals. Letting those bulls bleed to death is cruel. I'm sure Rick Steves enjoyed that mug full of beer more than anything else. He could have bought that in Germany.

  8. Yeah, this is the festival for real men, not for some herbivore hipsters. It's good that there are places on Earth where men can be men.

  9. I've always enjoyed your travel guides, but I'm disappointed that you would cover this event.

    I understand that you try to give it balance by saying that some people don't come out unscathed, but the difference is that the humans have a choice of whether or not they want to enter. The bulls don't.

    Would you have gone to the UK to cover the 'tradition' of fox hunting, another outdated barbaric practice?

  10. Man is said to be a rational animal, but i see no evidence for that. Quote of Bertrand Russel. Sums up these kind of traditions well.

  11. พวกบ้าไร้มนุษยธรรม.แล้วบอกตัวเองเจริญ.

  12. Pathetic cowards!
    All of them. Not enough of them seriously injured or killed as are all the bulls. 🙁
    Spanish shithouses one & all!

  13. The bull has many roots in pagan beliefs. It is believed that many male gods (particular that of the sun and sky) inherit the characteristics, like strength,fertility, agriculture. The fighting bull is unique.

  14. Little known trivia: 1) Many cities across Spain include an "encierro" (running of the bulls) with the week of festivals named for their patron saint (e.g., during San Mateo in Logroño); 2) In Spain, "mozo" just means "young man", so the "mozos" who run with the bulls are just the "young men" (probably because most of the runners are); 3) It's pronounced "mothos" because of the Z.

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