Pamplona is a city of approximately 197,000 people in the Navara province in northeast Spain. It was founded as a military settlement by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus who was better known as Pompey. He and his troops used the city as a winter resting stop in 74-75 BC during the war against Sertorius. Since the 1980s, many people have settled in Pamplona as it became harder to make a living in the fertile cereal basin surrounding the area.While traditionally this city had many craftsmen making wineskin, sandal, rope and pottery, but recently medical tourism is big in this city because it is the home of the Clinica Universitaria de Navarra offering affordable health care. Its centralized location also makes it one of the largest ground logistical centers in the region. While some come to this city to view its ancient architecture, over 200,000 visitors pour into the city every year to experience Spanish culture at the San Fermín Festival.
Long before the Running of the Bulls festival got its start, bulls arrived in the city on barges. Butchers paid men and boys to run in front of the bulls so that they would know the way to the meat market. Meanwhile, annually on September 25, church members would gather to pay tribute to the city’s first bishop who was beheaded during the third century for preaching the gospel in France. Many historians, however, say that Saint Fermin never lived and that the story is simply a legend. Eventually, town leaders decided to combine the two events in about 1776, but it was not until Ernest Hemingway romanticized the event in The Sun Also Rises that the event was moved to July and became immensely popular. Many participants still ask San Fermin for protection before running in front of the animals.
Since about 1931, the week-long event starts with the shooting off of chupinazo in front of the town’s city hall and the singing of a song to pay tribute to the city’s patron saint. On the second morning of the festival, a religious ceremony is held. Then, each day four chupinazoes are shot off. The first two indicate the start of the run that lasts only about four minutes. The third rocket announces that it is time to turn the slower bulls lose while the final rocket indicates that all bulls are safely contained in the bullfighting arena. The festival also includes the carrying of large wooden marionettes dressed to represent people from each corner of the globe through the streets that first made their appearance in 1276. Three of these giant wooden figures were made by Tadeo Amorena in 1860. Many businesses and private individuals host parties. Finally, the song “Pobre de Mi” (“Old Poor Me”) is sung to close the event.
In Spain, bulls are seen to represent life, power and the great wild. The bullfighters, called mozos, wear red and white during the bullfights. Some believe that this is to symbolize Saint Ferman who was pure but bled so that others could come to know about his faith. Others believe that the white represents the butchers while the red symbolizes the bulls. The Museum of the Running Bull offers visitors a glimpse into tradition throughout the year.
Happening from July 6 to July 14, the Running of the Bulls offers visitors a glimpse into Spanish traditions and the Spanish culture. While the San Fermín Festival may look dangerous, only 15 people have died from gorings during the festival.