Candlelight ceremony marks end of Spain’s bull running festival
Thousands of revellers raised candles in the air and swayed back and forth as they sang a mournful song to mark the end on Saturday of Spain’s most famous bull running festival in Pamplona.
“Poor me, poor me, the San Fermin fiesta has come to an end,” the crowd sang just after the stroke of midnight in front of city hall in the Plaza Consistorial as fireworks lit up the sky above.
“People of Pamplona, the San Fermin festival is over. Thanks to you we have enjoyed the best party in the world,” Pamplona mayor Enrique Maya shouted from the balcony of city hall to cheers from the crowd just before the singing began.
The nine-day San Fermin festival, which dates back to medieval times, features concerts, religious processions, folk dancing and round-the-clock drinking, with bars allowed to stay open until 6:00 am.
But the highlight is a bracing, daily test of courage against a thundering pack of half-tonne, sharp-horned bulls.
Each morning hundreds of runners, many dressed in white with red scarves and sashes, test their valour by sprinting with six half-tonne bulls along an 850-metre (2,800-foot) course through the narrow streets of the northern city.
The most daring try to run as long as they can right in front of the beasts’ horns before veering off to the side or diving under the wooden barriers that separate the bulls and runners from the thousands of spectators from around the world that line the route.
Four men, including a 28-year-old from Ireland, suffered injuries to their heads, shoulders and knees in falls during the final bull run of the festival held Saturday.
That brought to 38 the total number of people taken to hospital at the eight bull runs of this year’s alcohol-fuelled fiesta, including four men who were gored.
Hundreds more people were treated for more minor injures at the scene during the eight bull runs.
“In general the bull runs this year were very quiet. Four gorings in eight runs is not much,” said Patxi Cervantes, 48, who comments on the runs for Spanish public television.
A 73-year-old retired architect from Pamplona was gored in his left leg during the first bull run of this year’s San Fermin festival and required surgery.
Three men — two Britons and a US citizen — were gored by a bull that broke free from the pack during this year’s third bull run and then charged into a crowd of runners who were cowering by wooden barriers.
The two Britons, aged 20 and 29, are the only revellers injured at bull runs this year who remain in hospital.
Four people were gored last year at the San Fermin festival, down from nine in 2010.
Three years ago, a bull gored a 27-year-old Spaniard to death, piercing his neck, heart and lungs with its horns in front of hordes of tourists.
It was the 15th death at Pamplona bull run since record keeping began in 1924.
Pamplona officials estimate the festival, made famous worldwide by Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises”, draws about half a million visitors to the city of 200,000 residents.
Image via AFP/Ander Gillenea