Why Run With the Bulls?
While I was studying abroad in Britain in 2008, my flatmate handed me a book and said, “I think you might enjoy this”. I looked at the cover and read the title, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Since I rarely attended class, I had some free time, so I decided to read Ernest’s scribbles. As I dug into his story a rare occurrence happened – I declined an invitation to join my friends at the pub. A day later I finished his tale and knew I would not be satisfied with my life until I attended the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain.
Two years later, Hemingway’s literature landed me on Estafeta Street, the last third and arguably the most dangerous part of the Encierro (running with the bulls). I was standing next to my four best friends moments before the bulls released when Hemingway’s words began to come alive in my mind. The symbolism of passion, physicality, and freedom that the bulls represented in the story began to take a much darker shape now that my life was on the line. By the time I had realized what I had gotten myself into it was to late to escape. I was trapped by four stories worth of gothic-style architecture and being swarmed by hundreds of hysterical participants. It was Armageddon, and I was stuck right in the middle holding my ground battling to stay on my feet. Just as I was about to be trampled by the crowd, the bull’s godly charge split the sea of people and I was free. I took one glance into the toros' dark brown eyes and organ piercing horns before I was off. I ran as fast as I could, never looking back, using my peripherals to watch the beasts pass on my right. As I entered the Plaza de Toros right in front of the last bull I realized I had conducted a run that would have made Ernest proud. Two years of anticipation had come to a satisfying end as my friends and I rejoiced in the arena with the sweet taste of sangria.
After a few hours of botellón (a Spanish tradition of passing a bottle of booze around among friends), we decided to take a walk down the course to relive our morning. I was inside the local bodega replenishing our vino supply when one of my mates came running up to me with a newspaper in hand. What he revealed was our pretty faces on the centerfold spread of the most popular Encierro newspaper in Pamplona. By the end of the night our faces were scattered across the city. In our own eyes we were the toast of the town so we drank, danced, and sang until we woke up in a park, all nuzzled together under a giant tarp. The sun had risen and set on Hemingway’s old stomping grounds, and like my favorite authors book, our faces would forever be attached to the same pages of history.