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Archive for July, 2009

The Running of the Bulls

We stop in Hospital, our second camino town of the day since leave Mount El Cabron (O Cebrero…) and passing through Linares, to have toast with jam and a co-cola, and just in time for the third day in a row to see the Running of the Bulls on the bar tele, live from Pamplona. The men, many dressed in all white, save red sash belts, have rolled up newsprint held in their hands like batons, and in unison, chant a cheer in anticipation of the bulls´release.

Thrice the cheer is cried and finally the bulls are let go into the street corridor at 800am prompt. One grand bull, grey, red and brown, leads to the way, with three of his shade to follow. They are followed by four all-blacks, then about five all-browns. The first two groups make it through the enormous crowds and into the Plaza del Torros, even with the thousands in their way concurrent, but it is the brown bulls, each with long horns, longer than the other bulls, as long as a man´s arm, who have the most difficulty negociating the crowds to the ring. They are seperated from the greater herd. Their confusion leads to aggression – aggression towards the runners, many with long herding sticks or the white chanting batons, trying to antagonize the bulls to give chase and run ultimately to the Plaza and ultimately to their death that afternoon.

One bull, the last of the lot who has lost the herd entire, begins picking out runners and even spectators sitting on the make-shift barriers. One unlucky gaucho, wearing green and white with a red belt sash, is lifted off the make-shift wall by the arm-length horn, thrown over the bull´s entire body into the street. He is gored once in the side, and then butted repeatedly by the bull´s head, as he tries to tuck into a fetal position. Men with their long herding sticks and white chant batons try to shift the bull´s anger and attention, and one man even pulls with both hands and full body on the bull´s tail, as if tug-o-war. The bell finally relents and heads for the plaza, where he is greeted by hundreds more, runners who have yet to jump into the stands and to their own safety. The bull begins a charge at these, but is diswayed by men with matador caps. The distraction is too great to ignore, and he is finally lead out of the plaza, and with this last encouragement, the last brown bull makes it to the bull ring to await his moment of death that afternoon.

Later today, when at the albergue here in Triacastella, Mateo tells me that someone had died from injuries sustained during the running. An American, and only the fifteenth death in the last fifty years of the Running of the Bulls.

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