By Melinda Palacio
In yesterday's La Bloga, Ernesto Hogan asked if Bullfighting was a Latino Thing? I can't comment on the subject since I've never been to a bullfight. The pageantry of death and facing a bull remains a mystery, left to the imagination of authors, such as Barnaby Conrad, and movie makers, such as Pedro Amoldovar.
I can comment on transplanting a celebration of the bull to New Orleans. Last weekend, New Orleans drew on its Spanish roots as the city reenacted San Fermin en Nueva Orleans, El Encierro as only it can happen in New Orleans. This celebration is five years old. I'm surprised the Spanish who colonized New Orleans in 1762 didn't think of this tradition earlier. The practice of running with the bulls dates back to the fifteenth century. I guess it took one loco local, the assistance of the Big Easy Rollergirls, and a little leftover lagniappe from Mardi Gras to dream up the idea that drew thousands of people who didn't want to be gored by a bull, but who enjoyed being chased and perhaps beaten with a plastic bat by a sassy bull or roller derby girl with horns on her helmet. Revelers or runners all over the world wear the same white and red colors, but New Orleaneans take the tradition to its maximum extreme.
Last year, I must admit I was afraid of the bat wielding girls on skates. A few days before El Encierro, a roller derby krewe took over El Camino Real, forcing cars to veer towards the side of the road. I was enjoying tapas at Mimi's in the Marigny when a woman on skates with a dog, gained speed on Royal street. Before she turned into the open door to Mimi's, I had a feeling she would crash into me. And that's exactly what happened. Fortunately, she let go of her leash, and the dog didn't so much as flinch at being let loose. She hit the edge of my stool, bounced off, and decided her scraped knee wasn't worth crying over, neither was my spilled wine.
My cousin from Pico will tell you that I've had a bad history with people on skates. She was a wiz on ice skates and loved going to the roller rink. When I was nine years old, she invited me to join her friends for a skate date. A man thought it would be cool to jump over me. He missed and grazed my head. The shock was enough to give me an acute aversion to being on roller skates, rollerblades, and ice skates.
|A Roller Derby Bull Takes Aim|
However last weekend, after getting my fanny whacked with a plastic bat, I am no longer afraid of the roller derby bulls. El Encierro, which began with a procession of San Fermin and much pageantry, was worth getting up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning en Nueva Orleans.
There was no gorging of people or animals in the Nueva Orleans festival of San Fermin and the running of the bulls. If you are a close examiner of photos, you will notice that the first photo in this post is taken in Santa Barbara, California. I was in California yesterday for a very short trip to attend a panel at the MALCS conference at UCSB. Thank you to everyone who came to the panel.
I also had the pleasure of being interviewed by Dr. Cristina Herrera of Cal State University Fresno for her upcoming book, Mothers and Daughters in Contemporary Chicana Literature. The book will be an extension of her dissertation. I will be reporting on Dr. Herrera's book in the near future. I'm honored to be included in a scholarly text on Chicana literature.