Wednesday, July 15, 2009


During La Fiesta De San Fermin traditions and mutations run wild in the streets.

I knew that it wasn’t all about the running of the bulls, or even the bullfights. Though I was impressed with what horns could do to a pair of pants – not to mention a human body.

Everything, including the festival itself, is set off with the firing of Chupinazos, rockets. They seem to be made out of wine bottles. I’d like to know more about them.

It's essentially a religious festival, celebrating Saint Fermin. A procession lead by giants.

These giants, or Gigantes, are huge figures like those seen in Mardi Gras and Carnival around the world. They are dressed like kings and queens. Some of them are black. They are marched into the crowd where they dance. This on a small scale is what we see in Sambadrome in Rio, where Brazilian giants are becoming functional giant robots. And in a tribute to Michael Jackson by a bunch of white kids from the Midwest, a similar giant of Jackson in his Thriller/zombie guise danced.

The Gigantes are followed by six Kilikis, figures with large heads representing local councilors, Zaldikos, who have puppet/horses as part of their costumes, and Cabezudos, solem, big-headed characters.

This is supposed to be “for the children.” A fairy tale running parallel to the blood & guts & tits & ass. Kilikis and Cabezudos chase the kids around, very much like in the Wild Man festivals of pre-Christian eras. I’m going to have to reread Phyllis Siefker’s Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men.

These folkloric characters have evolved, and are still developing. And Mister Testis is joining their ranks.

At the end of the procession, San Fermin, Patron said of Pamploma is brought out. He is represented by a doll-like effigy, dressed like a miniature Pope. He is the reason for La Fiesta. But who is he? What does he have to do with bulls? There is a saying about how San Fermin’s cape can protect you from a close call. Where did this come from.? There is history, and myth. And there is mystery.

Today’s bullrunners use cell phones and websites. They run with the bulls, get on Twitter (is a new Hemingway writing novels or short stories in the form of tweets?) to co-ordinate which café to meet for the post-run parties. The balconies are full of people leaning over with digital cameras and cell phones. This movable feast is digitized.

And then there’s the new tradition of naked protests, and the transplanted Mardi Gras flash.

Technology just speeds up these mutations. It took Elvis Presley a generation to achieve the level of deification that Michael Jackson was awarded in a week. Gods-Made-While-U-Wait will be here soon. Who knows what will happen in Pamploma in a few years?

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