by Ernest Hogan
Stuck in Phoenix for another sizzling July, I’m glad I can retreat into the air-conditioning and get on SanFermin.com for vicarious enjoyment the Fiesta de San Fermín (better know as the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, thanks to Ernest Hemingway). But more goes on at the fiesta than bull running and fighting. It is a religious and cultural event. And controversy spills out of the crowded streets into the rest of the world.
As usual, it started with a protest from PETA that has become the unofficial opening ceremony. Why not? Start by acknowledging opposing veiwpoints. Unfortunately, these productions have gone from making Pamplona look like the set of a surrealistic spaghetti western littered with nude human bodies and splattered with fake blood to timid displays that look like zombies celebrating Día de los Muertos.
In advance, Kate Laycy, a runner up in PETA-UK’s World Sexiest Vegan pagent, announced that, “I'll gladly bare my skin if it will expose the cruelty of the Running of the Bulls and bullfighting.” When the protest finally happened, there was a fully-clothed woman who looked like her, but I couldn’t tell from the one video I could track down. Maybe it was because she wasn’t wearing makeup. Maybe that’s what she meant by baring her skin.
Or maybe she was honoring the city of Pamplona’s official ban on the public showing of breasts. This transplant from New Orleans’ Mardi Gras has taken root in San Fermín. There have also been rapes, so the city has cracked down.
Last year they came out against fountain jumping -- in which people dive off fountains to be (hopefully) caught by the crowd. Though, fountain jumping and breast showing still go on.
A ritual has evolved where a woman rides a man’s shoulders (like a bullfighter being honored) and men crowd around to touch her breasts. This is every bit as brave as running with the bulls or bullfighting. Women who do this deserve to be protected.
Men should be caballeros and protect women from attack at the fiesta.
Or better yet, women should be caballeras, and protect each other.
Maybe in the future, Amazonesque caballeras will patrol the streets, ready to use martial arts and light weaponry to prevent rapes.
There were a record number of injuries and gorings in the encierros this year. It was the Revenge of the Bulls. Among those gored was American writer Bill Hillmann
Hillmann has just released a book, Fiesta: How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona, that he had written with Alexander Fiske-Harrison and John Hemingway (Ernest’s grandson). Headline writers had fun pointing out the irony. Later, he wrote a first-person account “I Got Gored in Pamplona. But I Will Run With the Bulls Again.” for The Washington Post. And now, no one can deny that he is an expert on the subject.
And of course, there was bullfighting. Juan José Padilla, Borja Jiménez and El Juli wowed the crowds. And despite what the protesters say, everyone know that the bulls die -- it’s done in public, in broad daylight, the press is there, and you can watch videos on the interwebs.
Some people are predicting the end of bullfighting in this century, with the “anti” movements in various countries. But the pendulum swings.
Spain has declared it an Intangible Cultural Heritage, and is petitioning UNESCO to add it to the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritiage of Humanity.
And even if it’s banned in Spain and Mexico, there are so many other countries.
Did you know that bullfighting is legal in France? They do it in ancient Roman arenas in Nîmes and Arles.
I wonder if it would ever be legal in the U.S.A, or at least, once again, Aztlán? Not far from were I live is the University of Phoenix Stadium -- it’s been used as many other things, so why not a bull ring? And we could set up a corridor for the encierros in the parking lots . . .
Ernest Hogan moved this year’s report on San Fermín to La Bloga to connect Latino culture with the rest of the planet. !Viva la Raza Cosmica!