From July 6th to the 14th every year the word fiesta is all over the place in Pamplona because o fthe world San Fermin Festival or the “Sanfermines”. The opening ceremony with the firing of the rocket or Chupinazo at midday on 6th July gives way to a explosion of life and thousands of people from all over the world descend on the city, dressed up in red and white. For nine days the streets turn into a feast of friendship, joy, music and non-stop partying, to the rhythm of the Charangas, the brass bands of the Peñas, the 16 different social clubs .
The Encierro is the most well know event of the festival as thousands gather from around the world to run in front of 12 raging beasts. It takes place at 8.00 am every day from the 7th to the 14th July and it is indeed the only moment of the day when the party takes a brief break. Great tension descends on the route just a few minutes before the bulls start their ‘race’ behind the mozos or the local young men. The surge of emotions culminates in the bullring at the end of the run when all the best are locked up. The six fighting bulls will get killed in the afternoon bullfight while the six steers, castrated bulls will return to the corrals to run again the following morning with another six fighting bulls.
TO WATCH THE BULL RUN: If you want to watch it from the streets you need todo it from behind the second wooden fence that marks out the route. The space between the two fences is exclusively for runners, medical services, press, police, etc. It is not possible to reserve a place, so you should get there at around 6.00 a.m. Unless you get a place on the top of the fence you wont get a good view. Alternatively, in Santo Domingo St, there is an area in front of the museum where there is no fence but you need to be there by 5.00 am to catch a space.
The best way is from a balcony of an apartment overlooking the route. In the you can get the telephone numbers of people who offer this service and in some cases even including breakfast. It is also possible to rent a balcony to watch the opening or closing ceremonies on 6th July and 14th July. Check our BALCONIES for details.
The final stretch of the Encierro can be enjoyed in the Bullring where you need to go around 6.30 am to get in and get place. You need to buy a ticket the previous day which also includes the small cows the vaquillas. The atmosphere is great as a brass band entertains the crowd prior to the bull run. You can also watch it on TV or Internet as the bull run is broadcasted live every morning on TVE 1.
The fiesta continues with a good breakfast based on caldico, clear broth, some eggs and ham, or some chocolate with churros, long pastry doughnuts, which give energy to face the parade of the Gigantess and Cabezudos, giants and bigheads carnival figures dancing around town among families and children.
Afterwards the Vermú aperitif, the lunch in the local social venue, the Peña and then the bullfigh in the evening. After dinner the fireworks at night which give way to the all-night partying all around the city
BULLFIGHTS TICKETS: Getting tickets for the bullfights is a complex process, because most of them are sold in advance. Only 10% are put on sale the evening before the bullfight in the ticket office of the bullring. The sale of tickets starts at around 9 p.m., after the day’s bullfight has finished. Tickets for the bullfight of July 7th are sold to the public from 10 a.m. on July 6th. Sometimes it is difficult to get tickets because ticket touts usually manage to get hold of most of those on sale. The peñas also resell their tickets when one (or more) of their members cannot go to the bullfight. They often do not know until the last minute, so it is a good idea to stop by their club premises and ask. They will sell you the ticket(s) at face value.
The origin of the fiesta of San Fermín goes back to the Middle Ages and is related to three celebrations: religious ceremonies in honour of San Fermín, which intensified from the 12th century onwards, trade fairs dealing with live stock and agricultural tools and products and bullfights, which were first documented in the 14th century.
Initially, the fiesta San Fermín was held on October 10th, but in 1591 the people of Pamplona, fed up with the bad weather at that time of year, decided to transfer the fiesta to July so it would coincide with the Fair. This is how the Sanfermines were born. It initially lasted two days and had a pregón (opening speech), musicians, a tournament, theatre and bullfights. Other events were added later, such as fireworks and dances, and the fiesta lasted until July 10th. Chronicles from the 17th and 18th centuries tell us of religious events together with music, dance, giants, tournaments, acrobats, bull runs and bullfights, and the clergy’s concern at the excessive drinking and dissolute behaviour of young men and women. They also refer to the presence of people from other lands, whose shows “made the city more fun”.
In the 19th century there were curious fairground attractions such as wire walking, a woman fired from a cannon, exotic animals or wax figures, while the Comparsa de Gigantes y Cabezudos (parade of giants and big heads) had new carnival figures with big heads, kilikis and zaldikos. Furthermore, the absence of a double fence in the bull run meant that the bulls escaped on several occasions and ran around the city streets.
The Sanfermines reached their peak of popularity in the 20th century with the publication of the novel “The Sun Also Rises” or “Fiesta”, written by Ernest Hemingway in 1926 which somehow attracted people from all over the world to come to visit the fiesta of Pamplona depicted on the novel. The story tells about a group of American and British expatriates who travel from Paris to the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls and the bullfights.
An early and enduring modernist novel, it received mixed reviews upon publication. Hemingway biographer Jeffrey Meyers writes that it is “recognized as Hemingway’s greatest work”.
Hemingway began writing the novel on his birthday (21 July) in 1925, finishing the draft manuscript barely two months later in September. After setting aside the manuscript for a short period, he worked on revisions during the winter of 1926. The basis for the novel was Hemingway’s 1925 trip to Spain. The setting was unique and memorable, showing the seedy café life in Paris, and the excitement of the Pamplona festival, with a middle section devoted to descriptions of a fishing trip in the Pyrenees. Equally unique was Hemingway’s spare writing style, combined with his restrained use of description to convey characterizations and action, which became known as the Iceberg Theory.
On the surface the novel is a love story between the protagonist Jake Barnes—a man whose war wound has made him impotent—and the promiscuous divorcée Lady Brett Ashley. Brett’s affair with Robert Cohn causes Jake to be upset and break off his friendship with Cohn; her seduction of the 19-year-old matador Romero causes Jake to lose his good reputation among the Spaniards in Pamplona. The novel is a roman à clef; the characters are based on real people and the action is based on real events. In the novel, Hemingway presents his notion that the “Lost Generation”, considered to have been decadent, dissolute and irretrievably damaged by World War I, was resilient and strong. Additionally, Hemingway investigates the themes of love, death, renewal in nature, and the nature of masculinity.