San Fermín 2014
San Fermín 2014
Olé Today!

At 6 p.m Today Something Happens

  • Like the Chupinazo or the Pobre-De-Mi, it will go on for a couple of hours either side of its 6 o'clock "official" time

Las peñas durante la corrida de toros

Las peñas durante la corrida de toros

10/07/2014 a las 06:01
happens. It’s not marked by any official event, but for the first time ever I’m going to mark it. Hopefully with quite a few other people. I have a name for it, which stays secret for now, and an event for it too, which also stays secret. But like the Chupinazo or the Pobre-De-Mi, it will go on for a couple of hours either side of its 6 o’clock "official" time. For about 6 hours actually.

I will, however give you a clue as to what it marks. At 6 in the evening today we will have had 102 hours of fiesta and so be half way through. Phew! Now that’s got to be worth celebrating hasn’t it?

And I don’t know why I haven’t thought of this before, (maybe others have) but it’s done now and so what I called yesterday The Maze, I’ve codenamed Operation Ciento Dos for this piece and it has its inauguration today.

That’s if, of course, (for those that know me) I am actually still awake then. My sticky-out ears are crossed. To think all this properly started back in the 14th Century to commemorate a saint from 11 centuries before that. What started out so long ago as a religious homage to a former townsman born 1800 years ago has become this world famous, worldwide visited and just the most wonderful fiesta one could imagine.

And that’s not just down to San Fermin, but to the people of a place called Pamplona. As we approach 102 hours of fiesta...gracias, Pamploneses, eta eskerrik asko, Irunshemes. 

Pulsating...Pumping...Pounding...The Peñas 


The Peñas... peerless and priceless

So as the party clock tick-tocks its way up to what you might call half-past fiesta, I thought it was about time to take a quick look at the peñas. There are now 17 of these clubs that provide so much of the pumping, pulsating life-blood to fiesta. I defy anyone, however tired they are, to not at the very least dance a little as they hear that music approaching or smile as they go past. They are Pamplona’s party-popper to perk you up just when you think you’ve had enough. And they are magic. If you’ve never seen them leave the bullring after the fight...go. It is a sight to behold.

The oldest of what one might call the "modern" peñas is La Unica, who date from 1903, while the newest is Mutilzarra, who date from 1992. They are not all from the old town because some come from the surrounding suburbs, but they all have one thing in common during fiesta: an old town club house. Those from outside hire premises for the duration of the fiesta, and for my first couple of years I thought they were private and so didn’t go in. One lives and learns...

The peñas were made for fiesta. The first mention of them comes in 1852, when groups of lads made their appearance in the rows of the new bull ring. A banner was seen, the oldest from a known peña, called El Trueno (The Thunder). A few years later other banners appeared from other peñas, like La Marea, La Oleada, La Sequia, La Ochena, La Cuatrena and El Llavin...they’re gone now, but their spirit lives on in those of today.

I’d like to find out more about them, but I did write a piece about a very short lived peña once, La Veleta (The Weathervane) which I’d like to think was named after the one that sits proudly above the highest tower of the Church of San Saturnino. It had to be...It was formed in 1929 and can lay claim to two very great things. They were the first club to adopt the wearing of red and white...and boy, how popular did that turn out to be – and the other is that their club hymn was the first to be written for a peña by Pamplona’s famous music maestro, Manuel Turrillas.

But sadly they only graced the streets of their home town until 1936, when civil war intervened, and not all of them made it back. But hopefully they are together once beyond the clouds somewhere, under the La Peña Veleta banner singing their peña song and celebrating fiesta with the other spirits of San Fermins’ past.




El toro Antioquio embiste a uno de los dos mozos que mató en el encierro del 13 de julio de 1980.

Semillero. Reprochado. Palmello. Navarrico. Silletero. Antioquio. Castellano. Castillero. Capuchino. Umm...capuchino. Sounds nice. There’s something rather exotico about all those words, isn’t there?  

They’re the names of bulls who have run the encierro in Pamplona, and between them have killed 11 people. The first and second last named killed two people each, in 1947 and 1980 respectively.

Capuchino killed the last runner to die in the encierro, Daniel Jimeno Romero, exactly 5 years ago this morning.

The only reason the other bulls aren’t named for the remaining four victims is because I don’t know them. Naturally I hate the thought of anyone dying during these 9 glorious days and nights in this unbelievable town, and I would write about the victims but they deserve much more space than I can give them here. Also, in this day and age information about those who have died is available at the click of a mouse, and I just wanted to name the bulls because what they did was just pure instinct, whereas we humans have a choice.

There is a wooden post put up as part of the run, financed by the Federation of the Peñas, with the town shield engraved, along with a generic mention of all the deceased runners and the shields of the federation and all the peñas. It’s a simple affair with golden plates attached to the wooden post and I think it is rather touching.



The Federation of the Peñas memorial to those runners who didn’t know it would be their last run. But the bulls, these beautiful beasts we owe so much to, just what sort of animals are they and where do they come from? Well, I could go on about origins and breeds and how and from where they originally evolved, but suffice to say it’s believed they herald from Africa, and that wild Iberian bulls were used in Roman arena games. Although ‘arena’ always sounds gladiatorial or sporting to us, it actually just means ‘sand’.

Their aggression has been maintained and no doubt added to by selective breeding on our part. So the answer to, "where do they come from?" is, as far as I’m concerned, and depending on what you believe, the following: a combination of God, Mother Nature, and human intervention. As with so many things on this amazing planet that we live on, we owe these awesome animals an awful lot.

Fiesta or Feria Tale of the Day

Okay, one of my favouritesand it is a famous one, too. On the 8th July 1939 a bull from the Sanchez Cobaleda ranch was heading towards the bull ring entrance when it was distracted by a soldier up on the single – in those days – fencing, and turned towards him and charged. It hit the wooden planking...and broke through.


‘Liebrero’ and 10 year old Aurelia

The bull, ‘Liebrero’, ran after a young girl, 10 year old Aurelia Larequi Herrera, who you can see in the photo above. Staggeringly she got away, but if you look to where she’s running to there is a lady on her knees. Maybe it was just instinct, because that was her mother. The bull gored her mother twice, before turning away to go after more people.

They say a bull with blooded horns is even more dangerous, as it has now tasted combat and may want more. It did, but by all accounts Aurelia’s 16 year old brother Luis hit it, distracting it. But it didn’t go after him, but his 13 year old sister, Maria Jesus. Yes, this really was a family affair as they had all gone to watch the run. She also amazingly got away, but their mother was lying on the ground and in a very serious condition.

While the bull was eventually killed outside the ring, shot by a soldier, señora Herrera Larequi was carried into the bullring infirmary. Later she was transferred to hospital where she spent the next 34 days, eventually making a full recovery. For the next couple of years the wooden posts and planks were reinforced with iron, and after 1942 the double barriers we have now were installed.

Escape of the Day

Yesterday we headed north east, so today we’re going to go south-east. This is definitely one for the car. Grab a map, and take the A-21 out of town towards Lumbier, where you can visit a couple of rather beautiful ravines. The first one is the Foz (gorge) de Lumbier, and a few kilometres up the road is the Foz de Arbayun. Now we are not talking the Grand Canyon here, obviously, but they are spectacular and show nature at its finest and most awe inspiring.

To get back to Pamplona take the slower NA-150 and find a spot around the Embalse (Dam) of Itoiz. Why not take off down some un-named road and find that perfect lunch spot. Literally, go off the beaten track and find a piece of Navarran paradise. It’s a beautiful region and all one needs is a map.

And it makes the perfect wee loop: out on one road, back on another, proving that despite the subtitle to this small section... there really is no escape!

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