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San Fermín
Town Hall of Pamplona seconds before the initiation of the San Fermín festival
Official name San Fermín
Also called Sanfermin, Sanfermines (plural)
Main location Pamplona (Spain)
Begins 6 of July; 12 PM
Ends 14 of July; 12 AM

The festival of San Fermín (or Sanfermines) in the city of Pamplona (Navarre, Spain), is a deeply rooted celebration held annually from 12:00, 6 July, when the opening of the fiesta is marked by setting off the pyrotechnic chupinazo,[1] to midnight 14 July, with the singing of the Pobre de Mí. While its most famous event is the encierro, the running of the bulls, the biggest day is 7 July, when thousands of people accompany a replica of the statue of Saint Fermin along the streets in the old part of Pamplona. San Fermin is accompanied by dancers and street entertainers, such as the Gigantes (giant-sized figures who represent the King and Queen of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America) and the Cabezudos (the Bigheads). The week-long celebration involves many other traditional and folkloric events. It is known locally as Sanfermines and is held in honor of Saint Fermin, the co-patron of Navarra. Its events were central to the plot of The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, which brought it to the general attention of English-speaking people. It has become probably the most internationally renowned fiesta in Spain. Over 1,000,000 people come to watch this festival.



Saint Fermin

Saint Fermin

Fermin is said to have been the son of a Roman of senatorial rank in Pamplona in the 3rd century, who was converted to Christianity by Saint Honestus, a disciple of Saint Saturninus. According to tradition, he was baptised by Saturninus (in Navarre also known as Saint Cernin) at the spot now known as the "Small Well of Saint Cernin" [2][3] Fermin was ordained a priest in Toulouse and returned to Pamplona as its first bishop. On a later preaching voyage, Fermin was beheaded in Amiens, France; and is now considered a martyr in the Catholic Church.[3] It is believed he died on September 25, AD 303. There is no written record of veneration in Pamplona of the Saint until the 12th century. Saint Fermin, as well as Saint Francis Xavier, are now the two patrons of Navarre.[3] At Pamplona, Saint Fermin; is now sometimes said to have met his end by being dragged through the streets of Pamplona by bulls, a fate more commonly attributed to his mentor, Saturnin.

Medieval period to the 19th century

Statues dedicated to Sanfermines festival, in Pamplona

The celebration of the festival has its origin in the combination of two different medieval events.[4] Commercial secular fairs were held at the beginning of the summer. As cattle merchants came into town with their animals, eventually bullfighting came to be organized as a part of the tradition.[4] Specifically, they were first documented in the 14th century. On the other hand religious ceremonies honoring the saint were held on October 10.[4] However in 1591 they were transferred to the 7th of July to take place at the same time than the fair; when Pamplona's weather is better.[4] This is considered to be the beginning of the Sanfermines.[4] At that time they lasted two days but they were extended until the 10th and nowadays endure until the 14th.[4] During medieval times acts included an opening speech, musicians, tournaments, theater, bullfights, dances or even fireworks.[4] Bullrunning appears in 17th and 18th century chronicles together with the presence of foreigners and the first concerns on the excessive drinking and dissolute behavior during the event.[4] The Giant's Parade[5] was created by the end of the 19th century.[4] The first official bullring was constructed in 1844.

Modern times

The worldwide fame of the modern festival, and the great number of foreign visitors it receives every year, are closely related to the description by Ernest Hemingway's book The Sun Also Rises[6] and his job as a journalist.[7] He was greatly impressed in his first visit in 1923 coming back many times until 1959.[7] Hemingway was also deeply fond of bullrunnings and bullfights. Different city locations are famous in part due to the fact that the writer used to visit them, such as the La perla hotel,[7] or the Iruña cafe.


nearly at the Running of the bulls


The opening of the fiesta is marked by setting off the pyrotechnic chupinazo. The rocket thrown at 12:00 noon the 6th of July from a city hall balcony with thousands of people celebrating the act in the city hall square and other locations of Pamplona.[8]

The running of the bulls

The running of the bulls[9] involves hundreds of people running in front of six bulls and another six steers down an 825-metre (0.51 mile) stretch of narrow streets of a section of the old town of Pamplona. The event begins at 8 a.m. when a first firecracker is lit to announce the release of the bulls from their corral. Runners gather earlier at the beginning of the itinerary to ask for the protection of the Saint by singing a chant three times before a small statue of San Fermin which has been placed in a raised niche in a wall. A second cracker signals that the last bull has left the corral. The run ends in the Pamplona's bullring taking a mean time of around 3 minutes where the bulls would be held until the afternoons bullfight when they would be killed. Once all of the bulls have entered the arena, a third rocket is released while a fourth firecracker indicates that the bulls are in their bullpens and the run has concluded. The event is dangerous. Since 1925, 15[1] people have been killed during the event –– most recently on 10 July 2009[2] and every year between 200 and 300 people are injured during the run although most injuries are contusions due to falls and are not serious.[10] After the end of the run young cows with wrapped horns [11] are released among them and toss the participants, to the general amusement of the crowd.

The Riau-Riau

The Riau-Riau was a mass activity held on 6 July. The members of the city council would parade from the City Hall to a nearby chapel dedicated to Saint Fermín. Protesting youths would mass blocking the way, dancing to the Astrain Waltz played by the city band. The councilors would be stuck for hours sometimes being unable to exit the City Hall. The procession was finally removed from the festival calendar for political reasons as extremists used the "Riau-Riau" to promote unrest and clashes with authorities, police and other participants.

Pobre de mí

After nine days of partying, the people of Pamplona meet in the Plaza Consistorial at midnight on 14 July, singing the traditional mournful notes of the Pobre de Mí ('Poor Me'), in a candlelit ending.

Notes and references

  1. ^ The ceremony, which dates to the beginning of the twentieth century, has been accompanied by ever greater ceremony and is now is televised all over the world. (Spanish Wikipedia:"Chupinazo").
  2. ^ In Spanish: Pocico de San Cernin
  3. ^ a b c "History of... The saint-Saint San Fermin festival- Sanfermines-tourist information on Navarre". Government of Navarre. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "History of... The fiesta of San Fermín-Saint San Fermin festival- Sanfermines-tourist information on Navarre". Government of Navarre. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  5. ^ In Spanish: Comparsa de Gigantes y Cabezudos.
  6. ^ Also known as Fiesta, which in Spanish means party or carnival
  7. ^ a b c "History of... Ernest Hemingway-Saint San Fermin festival- Sanfermines-tourist information on Navarre". Government of Navarre. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  8. ^ "The Sanfermines: the "chupinazo"". Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  9. ^ In Spanish: encierro; from the verb encerrar, to lock/shut up
  10. ^ "The Bull Run". Ayuntamiento de Pamplona (Council of Pamplona). Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  11. ^ In Spanish: Vaquillas enboladas.

External links

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