Monday, July 19, 2004


The annual “Fiestas Populares y Taurinos” (i.e., the “People and Bulls Festival”) began last night here in Cabanillas del Campo. For the next eight days, my fellow townsfolk and I will enjoy such diverse events as fireworks displays, Bielarussian dancers, potato omelette cook-offs, concerts by big haired pop bands, and a giant paella.

But the highlight of the Festival is the bulls. Beginning on Thursday, we will be treated to four consecutive days of bull-antagonizing events to take place in or near the temporary bullring that was erected last month. And during the morning of each day, there will be a running of the bulls through the streets of Cabanillas; although thankfully, not on our street.

The running of the bulls in Cabanillas will be much as I described in my earlier Pamplona posting, except on a much smaller scale in terms of participation and blood-letting. There is logic behind this madness. The bulls that run each morning are those that are destined for the bullfight later that day. By running the bulls in the morning, bullfight officials are able to assess whether the bulls are healthy, coherent and have acceptable eye/hoof/horn coordination. A defective or erratically behaving bull will be a disappointment to the paying bullfight audience and a danger to the matador. Ironically, such concern for human welfare is not extended to the runners that bullfight officials use as guinea pigs each morning.

The Cabanillas del Campo city hall takes its civic responsibilities as seriously as it does its coffee breaks, and has published eight important nuggets of advice for any citizen planning to run with the bulls this week. Listed below is an English translation of these nuggets, as pulled from my mailbox yesterday afternoon.


1. Don’t forget that your participation in the running of the bulls is at your own risk.

2. Mentally prepare yourself for the running of the bulls in accordance with your own physical abilities. Don’t rely on luck to save you, because luck might not be with you.

3. Be aware of, and careful about, who or what is running beside you.

4. It is bad for all if runners attempt to perform bullfighter-type manoeuvres with the bulls. The purpose of a runner is simply to run.

5. If you drink, don’t run. If you intend to run, don’t drink.

6. If the street on which you are running has curves, then take the curves at a diagonal on the inside. This will help you gain distance from bull.

7. If you fall while running and a bull is nearby, don’t get up. It will be worse for you if you do.

8. Pay attention to the instructions that are given over the megaphone by Festival organizers. In case of accident, please cooperate with the emergency personnel.

This list is brimming with prudent advice, although I fear that strict adherence to point 5 will seriously decrease participation in this year’s event. I would further like to highlight point 6, as evidence to all high school students that geometry does have practical applications in the real world.

I will not be running in this or any year’s event, but I will attend as a spectator and report my findings in a later posting. I am sympathetic with those who may feel that such Festival activities are cruel, but please remember that bull-related events are embedded in Spain’s culture and have been practiced for hundreds of years. That which seems bizarre or inhumane to non-Spaniard eyes is largely considered normal here. Besides, these bull-related events serve the important function of occupying Festival time slots that might otherwise be filled by Marie Osmond or Gerry and the Pacemakers. Even PETA would agree that such alternative is repugnant beyond words.


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