Does this sound like fun? Stand in the street with thousands of your closest friends. You sing a song to Saint Fermin for a while. A rocket shoots into the sky and a dozen fairly confused, excited, and ill-mannered bulls come roaring down the street directly toward you. You run frantically in front of them to avoid being gored, tramples or mashed like a bug against the buildings that line the ever-narrowing street.
Would you sign up for this? Naturally! For you are in Pamplona, in July and it’s the annual Running of the Bulls, a world-famous tradition, rooted in the church and attended by thousands from all over the world. The week long festival celebrates the life of Saint Fermin, the co-patron of Navarre. He is said to have been the son of a Roman Senator in Pamplona in the 3rd century who was converted to Christianity by Saint Honestus and later martyred after being beheaded in France.
And what better way to celebrate this than by running through the streets being chased by 2,500-pound animal with anger management issues?
It is said that the tradition began in the late 1500s when drovers herded their bulls into the bullring to fight. At some point others joined in and ran behind the bulls urging them on faster and faster until they reached the holding pens. In the mid-1800s the bull-fighting arena was moved and as the route from the corral became shorter, the runners became bolder (or more foolish?) and the tradition was born to run in front of the bulls as an act of daring and bravery.
And so now at daybreak on July the 7th, wearing red neck scarves and white shirts and pants, the hearty souls begin to sing, “We ask San Fermín, as our Patron, to guide us through the Bull Run and give us his blessing.” A rocket fires in the distance, signaling the release of the bulls. The singing continues until another rocket ensures the revelers that, indeed, there are massive and lumbering animals heading their way. This is the last chance to change direction and sensibly head to a café for wine. But no, they stay, and as the bulls round the corner they begin to run. And as they realize that yes, they are being chased by bulls, they run faster. They become energized by the chase and begin to laugh because when you are in between a bull and the bullpen the only thing to do is laugh. Only when the bulls arrive in the arena can those who ran stop, fall down and thank God and Saint Fermin that they are alive.
Several runners are injured, and in the past even killed, but the tradition lives on and so every July, for a week, the brave, the crazy and the penitent all fight for space as the bulls of Pamplona go for their summer run.
If you think Spain is the destination for you and are looking for the immersive experience only a study abroad program can offer Conexus International is your answer. Guided by educators and world travelers our programs will give you a taste of true Spanish life with its beauty, language, cuisine and the Spanish traditions you’ve heard of but never seen. Come and let us show you how Conexus can be your guide. And we promise to never throw you in front of a bull.