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By Jaed Muncharoen Coffin

Photographs kindly supplied by Jorge Garcia-Eickelberg

It was in a movie about outlaw cowboys: the hero, conscious that this day he will die, grooms himself.  He shaves.  He combs his hair.  He adjusts his collar around his neck. And he steps outside, meets his death, and dies in the rain. As he lay dying, at least he's clean.

On the 9th of July I ran with the bulls through the narrow streets and alleys of the Spanish town of Pamplona. In the dawn of morning I combed my hair.  I shaved.  I dressed myself deliberately and with great execution in the traditional costume of the bull-runner: white pants, white shirt, red belt, red handkerchief tied around the neck.

The men gathered beneath the great cathedral in the centre of town.  Most of them were drunk.  They were all Spaniards.  Except for the Japanese guys with the video camera.  And the thick chested frat-boys from Texas.  And this kid, from Brunswick, Maine.

Unique Visits:
Enjoy a cooking class with a professional chef
Tips for the visitor.
Outside links:
San Fermin TV - nice website on the Fiesta with lots of photographs
The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona known to the Spanish as “El Encierro” (or “the enclosing”), is the seminal event of the week long Festival of Saint Fermin.The run covers a half-mile course through narrow cobblestone streets and alleys, and ends in the great stadium of the Plaza del Toros (the Spanish bullring). The origin of El Encierro is practical: the bulls, carefully raised and bred by bull breeders, grazed in the countryside of Pamplona  When the bulls had reached the proper age and physique to fight in the Plaza del Toros, the breeders used the streets of Pamplona to transport their prized bulls from the fields to the bullring.  In the same afternoon, all six of the bulls were expected to die by the sword of the matador.but why then, for over 800 years, have men chosen to run with the bulls…

The lore suggests that the original runners of El Encierro were the peasant butcher boys.  It is said that the young men, so overtaken by the sublime presence of the horned beasts, burst into the streets to run amongst the herd as if possessed in some ghostly trance. 

Many of the young men were fatally gored and trampled.  It is still unclear as to what compelled these young pioneers of El Encierro to risk their lives and run with the bulls.  As an old man of Pamplona once told me: “a young man cannot resist the magic of beauty and danger.” Perhaps.

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This article written By Jaed Muncharoen Coffin: Jaed Coffin is the author of, A CHANT TO SOOTHE WILD ELEPHANTS, Da Capo Press, and currently lives between Alaska, Maine, and Spain.
Photographs kindly supplied by Jorge Garcia-Eickelberg with arrangements through Madrid and Beyond