Annual Running of the Bull: Fiesta de San Fermín

Running of the Bulls 2019 in Pamplona, Spain.

THE NINE-DAY ANNUAL SAN FERMIN FESTIVAL, in Pamplona, Spain, began last July 7, 2019, again expecting thousands of visitors risking their lives and limbs to participate on their famous main attraction of the Running of the Bulls.

Pamplona Encierro the most popular event in the running of the bull in Spain.

This year’s festival kick-off will start with a massive crowd fervently awaiting at the chupinazo in Pamplona’s town square, followed by a carnival, complete with exciting fireworks, the Running of the Bulls, and several hair-raising bullfights.

The controversial festival with its beginning at San Fermín in 1591, still remains the most popular, albeit, dangerous event, in Pamplona, Spain.

Brief History

The fiesta de San Fermín Running of the Bull event began innocently in the early 14th century in Northeastern Spain. The tradition began when merchants transporting their cattle to the market would goad their animal by running along the side or front of the herd to hasten their speed. These Spanish boys would race their cattle ahead of the pack safely into the pens to avoid being gored. Over time this practice became a competition among young adults on who would be the first to reach the safety of the pens ahead of the herd.

The practice has gain popularity from the populace and residents of San Fermín – even extending from several Spanish cities and districts, that a tradition began which has been practice until today. While the earlier tradition included only streets going to the pens in the market, because of its increasing popularity, the tradition expanded which include major roads – to accommodate more participants – and the route were made longer, also to allow more spectators to the event.

Now in 2019, the kick-off – expecting a massive crowd of participants and spectators to the event – will be at the Pamplona’s town square.

Paula Lopez and Diego Roldan kissing at the opening of the 2019 San Fer min Festival

Pamplona Encierro

Encierro from the verb encerrar – meaning to enclose or to corral – is an event where participants are enjoined to run ahead of a group of six cattle, sometimes ten or more, depending on the number of participants entering the event. The event would let loose these herd of cattle behind the participants who will be given a headstart, before the cattle would be released on a route of sectioned-off subset, or cordoned and fenced sections of the town’s streets.

The most popular of all running of bulls in Spain is the Pamplona Encierro. They are so popular that they are televised and broadcast live through RTVE – the public Spanish national television channel – to the world for the past 30 years.

The annual festival is held every July 6 – 14, in which the highest profile of events will be the San Fermín festival. Because of the risk involve in the event, organizers insists that participants, should be at least 18 years old, should not be intoxicated with alcohol or drugs, run ahead of the herd of cattle on the designated route of the event and should not incite or tease the cattle.

The first of these running of the bull event starts on 7 July at 8 a.m. Consequently, to be held everyday after the initial ran, at precisely the same time each morning.

Start of Encierro

The kick-off of the event of the running of the bull is preceded by runners and participants singing a benediction, which shall be sang three times, first in Spanish, then in Basque. The benediction is a prayer given at the statue of Saint Fermín, patron Saint of the festival and the city, to ask for protection prior to the event.

Then a chupinazo rocket will be fired at exactly 8 a.m. to inform runners and participants that the corral gate is already open. A second rocket signals that the bulls have already been released. And off you go running for dear life to prevent harm on life and limb. The third and fourth chupinazo rocket will inform participants that the event has officially ended, and that the bulls and cattle have already returned to the bullring and corral, respectively.

Cordoned and Fenced 0ff Areas.

Throughout the route wooden fences are erected to direct the bulls along the course and road that the bulls and cattle and runners and participants are going. The gaps in the wooden fence are wide-enough for participants to pass through if they do not want to run anymore. This is also to separate and protect the spectators who watched the event to look for friends and loved ones who participated in the event.

The culmination of the event is a stroll down the streets to watch the carnivals.

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