The Spanish & Their Bulls

One of the stereotypes of Spain is, of course, that of bull-fighting. We’ve never been to Spain during the season but there’s a general agreement in the family that if we had the chance, we’d see one. There’s also agreement that we probably won’t like it; certain family members hope the bull would win. (Unlikely.)

Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death…
(Ernest Hemingway)

It’s that time of the year: the time of bull-fights and, in particular, the fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona. Last night I watched the news bulletin on the Spanish national television and the leading item was the death of a torero in the bullring of Teruel. (I don’t recommend watching it.) The bull-runs of the fiesta of San Fermin also already claimed some twenty injured, some of them grave, and the fiesta is not over yet.

The news of the death of the bull-fighter was reported entirely matter-of-factly in the Spanish press, as is the daily number of injured in Pamplona. There were no calls to ban bull-fighting; death and injury are accepted as the natural consequences of people choosing to put themselves in front of a bull’s horns. There are parts of Spain (Catalonia and the Canaries) where bull-fighting is forbidden and most recently Castile and Leon also forbade the killing of the animal in public during events like the Toro de la Vega in Tordesillas but the concern is for the animals, not for the people.

Bull runners in Pamplona. The typical attire is white shirt and trousers with red scarves tied around the neck and the waist. The more daring wear blue shirts or striking patterns to attract the bulls’ attention. Photo by Btodag via Wikipedia.

One of the reasons why the Pamplona bull-run is so famous is that it inspired Hemingway: he became interested in bull-fighting after attending the fiesta of San Fermin in 1925. His novel The Sun Also Rises is set (mostly) in Pamplona during the fiesta and he also wrote a non-fiction book Death in the Afternoon on the subject.

⇒ Can't tell Castile and Leon from Castile-La Mancha, or Galicia from Asturias? Learn the Spanish provinces with this online game.
⇒ Ever thought of walking the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St James? If you take the Camino Francés (the most popular route), you pass through Pamplona.
⇒ Hemingway was not the only writer who appreciated bull-fighting. Click here to read a description of a bull-fight by Laurie Lee.

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