Today, thousands of Pamploneses and Pamplona visitors celebrated the ‘Chupinazo’, the official opening party of the San Fermín fiestas commemorating St. Fermín, Pamplona’s patron saint. The revelers, dressed head to toe in traditional white clothing and red handkerchiefs gathered in the Plaza Consistorial outside the City Hall in Pamplona to kick off the eight days of the running of the bulls.
Join us over the next 8 days as we celebrate the festival with traditional Navarran dishes and wines and show highlights of each day’s.
(AP Photo / Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Here are 7 interesting facts about the annual festival **
1. The event is hundreds of years old
Historians trace the Running of the Bulls as far back as 1385, when bullfights first began in Pamplona, and it became a tradition to run the animals through the city beforehand. Many say the tradition officially began in 1591, when three main summer events — the festival of San Fermin, the livestock fair, and the bullfighting festival — were combined.
2. The runners’ uniforms may honor a saint… or butchers
Mozos, as the adrenaline-hungry adventurers who run with the bulls are called, traditionally wear white pants and shirts, accessorized with a red bandana around the neck or waist. One legend says the look is meant to honor San Fermin, as the white symbolizes sainthood and the red the fact that he was martyred. Others say the mozos are meant to be dressed like the butchers who originated the tradition. Either way, “the bulls are colorblind, so they don’t care,” says Rick Steves in the Chicago Tribune.
3. Bulls aren’t the only running beasts
Six bulls go running through the streets of Pamplona, but a few steers (castrated bulls) are released along with them. Bulls are most savage when they’re separated from the herd, so having the calmer, slower steers around helps mitigate the danger somewhat. “There’s no greater embarrassment in this machismo culture than to think you’ve run with a bull, only to realize later that you actually ran with a steer,” says Steves.
4. This tradition is lethal
Since 1924, when officials began keeping records, 15 people have died in the run, and countless others have been injured. The last death was Daniel Jimeno Romero in 2009. The 27-year-old Spaniard, who had run in previous years, was gored in the neck and lung.
5. It’s better to be trampled than gored
“A mozo who falls should never get up — it’s better to be trampled by six bulls than to be gored by one,” says Steves. Yes, “if you fall, stay down in the fetal position,” says John Rhodes of BullRunning.com, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. “This has saved many runners.”
6. There’s an app for it
For the tech-savvy mozo, the Pamplona City Council has released a “handy” iPhone app called Bull Run Trainer. It feature tips and advice for the big run, a virtual run feature, and stats on each year dating back to 1980.
7. It’s actually a series of short runs
The fenced route the bulls run through is only 875 yards long — about half a mile. A good individual run may cover just a tiny fraction of that small course, and last just 15 or 20 seconds, like a killer wave for surfers. “You know you are really running with the bull when you feel the breath of the animal on your pants,” says Steves.