Friday, July 11, 2008
One of the side effects of all this media attention was that towards the end of my stay people started to recognize me on the street, which for me was very unusual. Here in Montreal where I live my anonymity “es total”, but in Pamplona people would stop me on the street or in bars and want to shake my hand or offer me “un buen scotch como gustaba al abuelo”.
All of this reminds me that one of the most beautiful things about San Fermin is the people themselves. The warmth and general good cheer that you feel there is immense. And while nothing is perfect, I had heard of fights and two of my friends were pick-pocketed, on the whole it was a great experience.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Even if you’re not into Corrida, the bullfights in Pamplona are a must. In fact, you don’t have to be an aficionado, or an expert in the use of the muleta or a partisan of the tremendistas, to understand what’s going on up in the stands. The Fiesta may be a party for everyone but that doesn’t mean that the political and social divisions of this beautiful town cease to exist for a week. On the contrary, in the Plaza de Toros the uneasy war of nerves between the left (mostly Basque) and the right continues in the cheap seats of the Sol Tenidas and the much more expensive areas in the shade, or Sombra. The well to do of Pamplona sit in the Sombra and many of them are serious fans of bullfighting, pious Catholics, and politically conservative. They believe in their King and a united Spain and if they were Americans they probably would have voted for Bush.
Monday, July 7, 2008
This morning I watched the Encierro, or running with the bulls, from an apartment that had a great view of the Plaza Consistorial. From there I could see thousands of young men and women waiting for their collective appointment with destiny or even, perhaps, with death.
Every now and then a bull will kill a runner. It doesn’t happen that often, but I’m sure that the potential risk is one of the major attractions of this event. I don’t know if my grandfather ever actually ran in an Encierro, but whether or not he did, it’s certainly thanks to him and his novel, The Sun Also Rises, that so many runners still see it as a “must do.”
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Feliz San Fermines, or Gora San Fermini, as the Basques say! The Fiesta has begun and I have to say that it is a party like no other on the face of the Earth. I was lucky enough to stand just under the balcony of the beautiful baroque looking building where the mayor traditionally opens the Fiesta. It was a good vantage point in that, for the most part it was out of the firing zone of champagne and red wine that was dousing everyone in the plaza. The noise was deafening with choruses of Olé, Olé and a song in Spanish that went “Algo, algo (something, something) I think I’ve lost something, but I can’t remember what the hell it was!”
It’s a celebration that lasts an entire week, and I remember that at one point, as the crowd in the plaza seemed ready to explode, a few minutes before the mayor announced the beginning of the fiesta, a local man turned to me and said with a big grin on his face “and this is only the first day!”