Thousands of revelers dressed in white and red scarves filled the streets of Spain’s Pamplona on Wednesday as a burst of fireworks kicked off San Fermin’s first running of the bulls festival since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The light rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the sea of people who packed Municipal Square in the north of the city, their clothes already soaked in the red wine and sangria that flow freely during the eight-day festival made famous by Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun. It also rises”.
The annual event was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to coronavirus restrictions. Animal rights groups want it banned forever.
“I have been to San Fermin many times before but this is very different, people have missed the holiday, they are happy to be with their families, they are happy without the masks, they just want to feel alive and enjoy the sun,” said Michelle Rene, 45, of San Francisco.
Added Pablo Cortes, a tourist from Hawaii who, like Rene, watched the Chupinazo opening ceremony from a balcony: “The energy is great — it’s the greatest party, the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
The runs, in which six specially bred fighting bulls chase runners through the narrow streets of Pamplona’s old quarter over a stretch of 800 meters (0.5 miles), will start on Thursday and last for a week, including the weekend, when they are usually the busiest -dangerous due to larger crowds.
There are eight plays in total and each usually lasts between three and five minutes. They end up in the bullring where the animals are confined before reappearing in the evening bullfight when they are killed.
Dozens of animal rights activists dressed in dinosaur costumes protested in Pamplona on Tuesday, chanting “Bullfighting is prehistoric!”
The holiday is also dangerous for people. At least 16 runners have lost their lives over the years, with the latest victim being a man gored by a bull in 2009.