This past week has been filled with many adventures because the Barcelona group has finally gotten used to the swing of things. This past Wednesday was the 4th of July! It was interesting because i was anxious to get out of work and celebrate, and no one in the office knew it was a holiday in America. This might make sense normally, however, the extent to which America's culture has infiltrated Europe is astounding. It seems that Pitbull and Rihanna are Spain's favorite artists, and there are not many native artists that make it big. Luckily, I was able to leave work at 15:00. That evening we headed to Barcelona's famous Irish bar George Payne's (what better way to celebrate?). The bar was crawling with Americans, and it was the most English I had heard being spoken in one place in three weeks. By 20:30 there were " 'Merica" chants resonating throughout the two-story bar. Though it made me home sick for the first time this summer, I had something to look forward to that would demonstrate the culture of Spain that weekend, the Running of the Bulls!
The Running of the Bulls is a tradition in Pamplona and was created to commemorate the patron of Navarra (the region Pamplona is in), San Fermin. It is held annually from the 6th to the 14th of July. Every morning at 8:00 people line up to run 1/4 of a mile to the coliseum with the bulls.
On Friday, after work, my roommate Kelly and I took a bus to Pamplona. The six-hour bus ride went surprisingly fast and we arrived around midnight. Driving into the city we could see the fireworks from the opening ceremony. After reaching the city, we clad ourselves with the typical attire of the Festival, white with accents of red. We had made friends on the bus and we all decided to make our way into the city together. The first place we found was an outdoor concert where the band Guaraná was playing. Surprisingly enough, we knew one of the songs! After the act was over, we made our way deeper into the city, where the real party was. The streets were packed with both tourists and natives. It was a sea of white and red dancing, jumping and moving together with the beat of the music. It was difficult to move, but we were able to squeeze close to the second stage. The atmosphere was electric, everyone appreciated the music and was thrilled to be there. We soon found out that this week was known for being the biggest party week in Spain! We danced through the night, occasionally switching venues and meeting new people from various areas (U.S., France, Spain). We managed to stay up all night and get to the coliseum before the running started.
It was such a tiring night that I almost fell asleep beforehand! However, once the ceremony started it seemed as if I had a full night's sleep. My eyes were glued to the floor of the arena. We knew it was time to start when a parade of 20 EMTs made its way to the entrance. The screens came on and the bulls were let loose! We were able to see footage of the runners in the streets and watched as they entered the coliseum. The cheaters, those who ran before the bulls were let loose, came in first.
We waited one more minute and a parade of people ran in, closely followed by the bulls. The bulls circled and then were led out, but that wasn't the end of San Fermin! For the next half an hour they let bulls back into the arena. Participants taunted the bulls and those who touched the bulls received cries of disgust from the crowd. Many were run over, but I was told by a local that it was not that bad because they were not the "big bulls." However, there were multiple instances where men had to be carried away from the bull's wrath, and one appeared unconscious. By show's end, the excitement in the air was palpable, because it was only the opening run of the festival. Later on that day was the bullfight, and I learned that they would use bulls from the run for the show. Though the bulls were unharmed in the morning, some would suffer a cruel fate. It was truly an eye-opening tradition that illustrated the customs of Spain.