July 11, 2014

The perils of being directionally challenged


Sometime in the early 1300’s, according to Spanish tradition, the guys who were in charge of delivering bulls to the bullfight found themselves in a quandary.  For whatever reason, (possibly a zoning code) the bullring was located on one side of town and the corrals were on the other.

Since the internal combustion engine was 700 years in the future, loading the bulls into a truck was not an option. Consequently, the livestock company determined that the most practical means to get the bulls across town was through the streets.

One can only imagine the difficulty encountered before the local planning commission and the board of adjustment.  At the public hearing, it would have been natural for a number of merchants to have expressed concern about the economic impact and we can be sure that the term “bull in a china shop” was tossed about.

Ultimately, the city approved the route that the bulls would take in the annual San Fermin Festival. Assumedly, a condition of the permit was to require that they be moved with the utmost haste, thus the festival is now known worldwide as the Pamplona Bull Run.

Annually, for eight days in July, crowds gather to watch or participate in the running of the bulls.  Runners gather around the statue of Saint Fermin, patron saint of the festival and sing a benediction prayer.  Most runners are dressed in white shirts and trousers with a red waistband and red neckerchief and are armed with a rolled up newspaper to divert the attention of the bulls.

Like clockwork at 8:00 a.m. each morning of the festival, a rocket is fired to signal hundreds of runners that the six bulls selected for the afternoon’s bullfight together with nine steers have been released and are on their way to the arena.  For the next four minutes as the livestock traverse the 903 yard distance through the old town, runners sprint for their lives.

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