Saturday, 7 July 2012

San Fermin

This morning's national news on TVE featured the first bull-running event of the week long fiesta of San Fermin (one of Navarra's patron saints). Three mad minutes in which thousands of over-excited people clad in white with red neckerchiefs sprint through narrow streets in the company of ten terrified animals being taken to the corrida. Later, I learned that it was broadcasted live on the news network at eight in the morning. It's an ancient tradition, and attracts interest and visitors from all over the world, as does any spectacular manifestation of folk culture.

Modern concern about the danger of such events demands a great deal of investment in keeping the risks under control and making them safe. It couldn't be achieved without strong local community support. In a way, such a cruel spectacle contradicts the spirit of the age, yet its persistence, surrounded by the best of policing and first aid teams, says something about a popular desire to stay in touch with, and not forget another era in which life was often nasty, brutish and short, for man and animal alike.

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