The first encierro looked out of control. More like a riot than a staged event. Like the scenes in old monster movies where crowds are running through the streets, trying to escape a gigantic monster. Only wilder.
The encierros, or runs, during the the Fiesta de San Fermín in Pamplona, Spain are scored by Time (Duración), Corenados (Gorings), Tramatismos (Injuries) and Peligrosidad (Dangerousness). Oddly enough, Time isn't as important at the rest. Dangerousness is what makes a good, or great encierro.
This is not sport as practiced in Western Civilization. This ritual is more like religion. Like the pre-fiesta protests where PETA beauty contest winners wear plastic horns, take off their clothes, and smear themselves with fake blood. See Richard Wright's Pagan Spain: It is the conquering of fear, the making of religion of the conquering of fear.
Why not a Church of Tauromachy? Isn't America supposed to be all about freedom of religion?
In that first encierro, a woman, after making it to the corridor into the arena, stopped running, and covered her ears. She had reached a personal limit. I watch for people like her, who are facing their fears. Sometimes it reduces you to a pile of quivering jelly, but what you gain from it is the courage of self-knowledge. There is a heroism in it.
This is a truer thing than America's “horror” culture, where fake blood and gore are mass produced and celebrated. Sometimes you need to reach out of your artificial consumer environment and touch the gooey mess of reality. It will teach you about your place in the universe, and the food chain.
It does cause visions of alternate universes to dance in my head: What would Hemingway think of what San Fermín has become? How and when did bullfighting become illegal in Aztlán? What if the Spanish influence was stronger and bullfighting was part of the cowboy/beef culture? Where would the running of the bulls be held in America? Would MacDonald's and Burger King be sponsoring bulls?
There's a Burger King along the encierro route. And a space that is for rent . . .
I really need to find time to finish that science fiction bullfighting novel.
And even though I'm stuck barbecuing my brain in Phoenix, I can enjoy San Fermín at my computer thanks to SanFermin.com, SanFerminTV Online, and San Fermin Encierro's YouTube Channel.
How I enjoyed the high-Dangerousness – it got an 80! – encierro on Saturday! At one point, a bull named Finito had three men pinned to a wall. Finito charged into the arena with blood on his horn. Later, he threw Iván Fandiño, who had been gored in 2013. With blood on his face and no jacket, Fandiño killed Finito.
On the last day's encierro, the bulls from Miura made history for being the fastest in history. It set a new record at two minutes and five seconds. It also rated a 60 for Dangerousness. The real action was at Dead Man's Curve.
The bulls were muy bravo, and pretty badass, this year. A speed record, 10 gorings (8 were Americans, we're number one!), and 27 injuries. One bull even refused to run.
But it's all over now. Back to the alternate universes that are America and Arizona. Comic-Con? Really? And there's all this political turmoil, racist rhetoric, violence, and fighting over flags. So civilized.
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