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Wednesday, 01 March 2017

One Ticket, Twenty Euros: Pamplona at the Running of the Bulls - Page 3

Written by Caleb Lee Gonzalez
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The noise starts to diminish by six o clock. At six thirty I run to catch the bus to the city center. I’m almost late. I start to sweat as I run. As I step inside the bus, I quickly realize that my definition of late in Pamplona means that I’m still pretty damn early. The bus driver takes my euro coins and gives me a receipt. No questions are to be asked. No smiles. He quickly hands me my receipt and motions for me to move along with his hand. With each bus stop, more people, all dressed in red and white, step inside the bus. A few people yawn while others are still asleep. As more people get on the bus, people start to sing the festival anthem. Everybody on the bus eventually joins in. 


“A mí me gusta el pipirivipipi, de la bota empinar parabapapa. Con el pipirivipipi, con el paparabapapa al que no le gusta el vino, es un animal, es un animal!!!!!”


This is Spanish for I like wine, I like it a lot and he who does not like wine must have serious problems. 


As I step off the bus, I notice a young gentleman with a red scarf dangling from his shorts sleeping on a bench with an empty bottle of alcohol by his side. He looks peaceful. I see a young man taking a selfie next to him. He puts his thumbs up and opens his mouth with a wide smile. 


I push my way through the crowds to climb up the red painted stairs. The bullring is bigger inside then it looks on the outside. In front of me is a man reading a newspaper as the band plays before the chupinazo, the first gun shot. His blond mustache and blue eyes gaze upon the local newspaper that reads, “People Who Are Celebrating the San Fermín Festivities Across the World”.  Ernest Hemingway sat in this very same bullring possibly like this gentleman reading the local newspaper. Maybe he wasn’t reading anything at all. Maybe he sat waiting impatiently to see the bull run. He must have observed the marching band as they played their trumpets and trombones in the bullring before the start of the run. Maybe he was late from partying so much the night before. Beside the gentleman are two young boys both drinking glorious coffee with milk – the wonder of a true Spanish breakfast – with the front part of their light brown hair gelled up. I wonder where they got the silver metal tin cups. The paramedics enter the stadium and set up their equipment for the festivities. The crowd grows silent as we all gaze upon the big screen in the bullring. There is a moment of silence. We all wait to hear for the rocket launch. I don’t know what to expect and in this very moment, I can feel an adrenaline rush as a spectator. I’m not sure why I’m so nervous. Maybe I’m nervous for the runners. Maybe I’m nervous for the bulls. As the rocket launches into the air, there is a gunshot that follows. The gates are opened for the runners. The bulls are released a few seconds later. 


The noise from the crowds watching the run from the streets can be heard inside the arena. As I watch the big screen, the men run looking back at the bulls chasing after them. The herd of bulls run so fast that the runners step aside, some climbing up the walls to be pushed back onto the street by the crowds. One of the bulls gores a man’s shirt and he falls to the ground. The crowds continue to shout. The same bull gores another young man throwing him to the ground. The bull steps over him as he covers his head. The bulls continue to run beside the runners. Some of the runners grab onto the horns of the black bull. He thrashes them around towards the entrance of the arena. The entire run occurs in five minutes. As the runners and the bulls enter the arena a man with a thick black mustache and a green beret peaks out of a door to make sure the bulls are making it into the arena. The runners hurry inside like an army of working ants. 

“JALISCO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” The announcer shouts over the speakers. The crowd shouts back, “JALISCOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!” The runners make their way into the stadium most of them with purple wine rings on their shirts. I see a man dressed in a Waldo outfit and I decide to play the live version of Where’s Waldo. The first bull leaps into the arena. It’s a dangerous move to sit at the bottom rows of any bullfight. Bulls have been known to jump into the crowds. The bull’s name is Jalisco. The men start to pull his tail. They anger Jalisco. He gores a young man flinging him into the air. The man smacks the dirt and gets up. The next one waves his red handkerchief in his face. The bull charges at him. The man is barely able to escape the bull’s wrath. After two minutes, the shepherds herd the bull out of the stadium. People are on their feet waiting for the next bull. The next bull jumps in with sharp horns goring an older gentleman with white hair and wrinkled skin. The man’s body hits the dirt. Passed out, some of the other runners throw him over the edge where the paramedics are stationed wearing bright orange vests. The men begin to taunt the bull with their handkerchiefs. As the bull charges at one runner, the rest of the runners move in sync the other way creating space for the bull to move.


“OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH!!!” The crowd gasps as the bull gores another runner. 

“AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” The crowd shouts again when another runner is able to get away. 

The last bull is shepherded out of the ring. I jump to my feet with the rest of the crowd. Everyone starts clapping and cheering to celebrate life in the midst of immanent death. I decide that I will go tomorrow morning to see the run from the streets instead of the arena. I am fascinated by this festivity. I’ve never seen anything like it. I go back to my dorm room to eat ham, cheese and toast for breakfast. This is only the beginning of the festivities. Even though my body has not gotten enough rest, I fight my own eyes. I can still feel the adrenaline. Sleep can come later. 


©Caleb Lee Gonzalez 


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

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