Like Hemingway…I like to drink, I like to write, and, on occasion, I like to be a contrarian. I also like to understand the culture of the “other,” especially when it has such a deep history. So, that’s why I came to Pamplona.
Still, my conscience felt a little sick to its stomach while my natural curiosity ached to partake in this 9 day celebration that has religious roots, but hedonistic ends. Why do 2 million people make this annual pilgrimage of beer, bulls, and blood?
Do these revelers recognize that the bulls they'll be running with in the morning will be slaughtered by nightfall (literally a life and death finish line)? How is Spain reconciling that Barcelona has forbidden bullfights and, in reaction, Madrid has enacted laws to make it a sacred art form as protected as the city’s historic architecture? Historic or hysteric, I decided to take the plunge and spend 3 nights at the Fiesta de San Fermin that lasts from July 6-14 every year.
Some see a bullfight as a heroic ballet of man versus beast; others see it as a barbaric act. A couple of days before the first bull run, you’ll encounter the Running of the Nudes, a PETA-sponsored event dedicated to “exposing the truth” about bullfighting.
Hemingway wrote, “Aficion means passion. An aficionado is one who is passionate about the bullfights.” Pamplona is full of aficionados. So, I settled in with an open mind, strapped on my smile, and stepped into my reveler spirit...moving from my conscience to my curiosity.