Running of the Bulls

The Spanish speaker inside of me won’t let number two on my dream travels list stray too far from the Spanish speaking world just yet. I am planning on spending next semester in Alicante, Spain (if all goes as planned!). I am so excited to see Spain and experience Alicante, a city located on the Mediterranean Sea, south of Barcelona. I am interested in Spanish history for many reasons; Spain’s involvement with the United Nations is particularly fascinating. In the 1940’s the United Nations refused to constitutionally recognize the Franco regime and urged member states to break relations with Spain. Although there was strong opposition to Franco’s dictatorship, the UN believed that the regime did not represent the beliefs of the Spanish people, and desired electoral freedom for the country.  Spain became a member of the UN in 1955. Spain’s remarkable history is something I’d like to learn more about during my time in Spain. So while Alicante is on my “reality” list rather than my dream list, there is still a Spanish tradition I hope to see.

The Running of the Bulls

#2: The running of the bulls in Pamplona. Just saying it sounds exciting! In my mind, the running of the bulls seems so uniquely Spanish that I have to see it in order to truly experience Spanish culture. Pamplona is a city in northern Spain near San Sebastián. Every July, the city hosts the San Fermín festival to honor the state’s patron saint, in which the main attraction is the running of the bulls, a tradition that has been held since the 1500’s.

At daybreak on July 7th, the streets are packed in Pamplona. The crowds sing songs to Saint Fermín, “A San Fermín pedimos, por ser nuestro patrón, nos guíe en el encierro dándonos su bendición” (“We ask San Fermín, as our Patron, to guide us through the Bull Run and give us his blessing.”). The runners gather at the starting line and a rocket fires signaling the start. A number of bulls are then released into the street as the runners tear away, with the traditional goal of feeling the bull’s breath on one’s back. In all reality I’m guessing their goal is to sprint as fast as they can and make it out alive.

The race is a half mile through the narrow, winding Santo Domingo Street and the bulls end up in a ring. Later in that night, a bullfight takes place in this ring. Now, I’m not positive I could stomach the bullfight and seeing the bulls die might make my eyes well up, so I might have to skip that part and have a quick siesta before more celebrating.

After the running of the bulls and the bullfight, the festival continues with celebrations and parties throughout the city.  There are musical performances, giant papier-mâché floats taking different routes throughout the city, and fireworks. What more could one want? Spending a few days in Northern Spain celebrating and seeing one of the most famous festivals in the world…Yep, add it to my list.

Laura Stoddard

Iowa UNA

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