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Wednesday, 01 March 2017

One Ticket, Twenty Euros: Pamplona at the Running of the Bulls - Page 2

Written by Caleb Lee Gonzalez
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Walking in the city center is nearly impossible. People are jumping up and down shouting Spanish pop song lyrics from the top of their lungs with a bottle of sangria in their hand. I get sprayed with wine. It’s inevitable. This doesn’t bother me when I realize that in some small way, the people spraying me with their wine are celebrating. They’re celebrating life. I let the wine stay on me to join the celebration with them. I see fathers holding their children over their heads with one hand. I make it to the square where La Calle de la Estafeta or the Post-Office Street is located. This is known as the street of death during the festival for its dangerous corner. Runners and bulls alike usually slip and fall on the wet street making way for dangerous outcomes. The buildings in the square are old. They’re tall and covered in graffiti. The buildings date back to the Spanish Golden age. The most decorated building is the one where a few days ago, the governor of Pamplona walked out onto the balcony with a megaphone to officially validate the festival before all of Pamplona. All of Pamplona may be a bit of a stretch. Most of the residents go on vacation during this time. 

An acoustic guitar begins to play in the square. A tall woman with long black hair begins to dance. The man picks the guitar. He doesn’t strum it. He picks it because Flamenco is simply not the same without this. The woman wears a white flower in her hair. Her long white dress is spotless. Even her nail polish is white. Her maroon lipstick matches her blouse. She moves her hips with the rhythm of the music stomping her feet on the cardboard box under her heels. She claps to the rhythm of the guitar. Men and women gather around with their arms folded gazing at the woman as she quickly twirls her hands above her head. She spins. She spins again. She spins a third time and claps her hands. The guitar stops. The woman ends the show with her left hand above her head, her right hand is above her waist. 


“Olé!!!!!” The crowd shouts. “Olé!!!!!!”  Everyone bursts in applause. 


The guitarist stands up and takes a bow. His brown curls almost cover his face. 


I need to purchase tickets for the running tomorrow. I walk further into the city center. It is impossible to get by. I push my way through the crowd. Everyone has a bottle of liquor in their hands. A two-minute walk quickly turns into a thirty-minute maze through thousands of people huddled together on a small one-way street. I ask around to find my way to the plaza. 


The bullring is smaller than I imagined. The words Kingdom of Navarra are written across the bullring. I can see the chipped red paint on the doors of the entrance that the runners will go through tomorrow. Ambulances zoom by as people continue to party on the streets. Broken glass bottles are shattered all over the streets.  I step on used plastic forks and spoons. Young people sit on yellow buckets in groups in front of the bullring to drink and smoke. It’s ten o clock at night. People are barely starting to eat dinner.


A man comes up to me as I wait in line. 


“One ticket, twenty euros. Everything is sold out. I promise you.” He shows me a ticket. I notice his glossy eyes and wrinkled face. 


“If everything is sold out, why are there people still waiting in line?” I ask him in Spanish. 


“It’s all sold out.” He repeats. “One ticket, twenty euros.” 


I walk around the plaza to notice ticket kiosks. I purchased my ticket for seven euros. 


I figure an alternative route back to my room. I immediately leave my room again at midnight for dinner at a local Spanish Fast Food place a couple of blocks from where I stay called One Hundred Little Sandwiches. I was intrigued by this place back in Madrid when my Costa Rican friend recommended that I go there especially on Wednesdays and Sundays where every item on the menu including the sangria (cheap sangria but sangria nonetheless) is one euro each. The place is crowded with almost no place to sit. Crowds of people are smoking outside. Others sit around tables with pint glasses full of wine and sangria. I get my usual order: Manchego Cheese Mini Sandwiches and a Spanish Omelet Mini Sandwich with a sangria of course. I enjoy the moment. I enjoy listening to the roars of laughter coming from each table and I’m hit once again with the reality that I’m actually in Spain. It’s a thought that often comes to me. Dude, you’re actually in Spain. 


As I open the door to my miniature dorm room, I open the window. I can hear fireworks so loud that if I closed the window, the sound would still permeate through. I hear people singing songs about wine and beer. I decide to leave my window open. In some odd way, the sound of fireworks and wine choruses put me to sleep. 

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Wednesday, 01 March 2017

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