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The Culture Vulture

About cultural things: music, dance, literature, theatre and local events.

Are the Sanfermines Bulls**t?
Monday, July 8, 2024 @ 7:53 AM

Yesterday, 7 July, saw the start of the San Fermin bull-running and bullfight festival in Pamplona, Navarra.

This annual festival, popularised by, among others, the American journalist and author Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961), has come in for criticism in recent years, as the corrida de toros has come increasingly under the microscope. Already banned in Catalonia, this cultural and iconic part of Spanish life provokes strong feelings nowadays.


7 July, 1971

My first experience of the bulls was at age 21 in Pamplona in July 1971, when I visited for the first time. I was hooked.

I saw a young torero, Paquirri, who went on to become the best of his generation. He sadly died from a serious goring at the age of 36. Paquirri was from the legendary Ordoñez family from Ronda. His father Antonio Ordoñez was a top torero, as were his sons Fran Rivera and Cayetano Rivera.

Antonio Ordoñez became great friends of Ernest Hemingway and US actor and film director Orson Welles, whose ashes are buried on the Ordoñez estate near Ronda. Both have streets named after them in the City of the Tajo, as Ronda is also known.

Ernest Hemingway [Photo: Acento]   Orson Welles [Photo: Amazon]    Antonio Ordoñez [Photo: El Mundo] 


7 July, 2024

At 7.00 am a gun was fired in Pamplona and the gates of the stables, housing the six bulls for the afternoon bullfight, were opened and these ferocious beasts, accompanied by oxen to keep them moving, ran through the barricaded streets of the Basque town to the Plaza de Toros a mile away.

Running in front of the bulls were hundreds of aficionados dressed in the traditional white shirt and trousers with red beret and sash, who try to avoid getting injured or killed.

Sundry foreign, mainly American, machos, many of them drunk or hungover, also take part. Yesterday four injuries were reported.


Me and los toros

Plaza de Toros, Ronda [Photo: Wikipedia]


Having lived in Ronda, the acknowledged home of bullfighting, for nearly 16 years, I have been to a few corridas. But not for a good few years. I’ve gone off the whole thing. It’s become too expensive and commercialised, The last time I went was in 2012, a dozen years ago.

I fancied giving the Goyesca a try, but I can’t afford 200 euros for a ticket.


2024 cancelled

It was announced a couple of weeks ago that the bullfight segment of Ronda’s Feria de Pedro Romero in September has been cancelled. The Plaza de Toros has been deemed unsafe. The oldest plaza in Spain, many of the wooden support beams have been found to be rotten. It is hoped to fix the problem for next year.

The town estimates that it will lose some 250,000 euros as a result if the cancellation.


Further reading:

7 de julio – San Fermín (

Ernest Hemingway - Wikipedia

Fisticuffs and whisky: The first meeting between Welles and Hemingway (

Goyesca 2024 in Ronda Cancelled (

Remembering "PAQUIRRI", torero extraordinaire (

“ ….. Siete de julio, San Fermin ….” (


Top 5 writers on Spain (



Acento, Amazon, El Confidencial, El Mundo, Wikipedia



Antonio Ordoñez, Cayetano Rivera, Ernest Hemingway, “Fisticuffs and Whisky”, Feria de Pedro Romero, Fran Rivera, Goyesca, Navarra, Orson Welles, Pamplona, Paquirri, Plaza de Toros, Ronda, San Fermin, Sanfermines, siete de julio

Like 0


lenox said:
Monday, July 8, 2024 @ 10:25 AM

I've been to a few bullfights over the years, mainly with Spanish family or friends. Some are without doubt better than others.
As for running the bulls in Pamplona - I did that one time in about 1980 - drunk and hungover as you say. It certainly sobers you up fast, if you are running through the tunnel into the bullring with a dozen angry bovines right behind you. It beats Alka Seltza!

PablodeRonda said:
Tuesday, July 9, 2024 @ 7:56 AM

Hi Lenox
Great stuff. I went to Pamplona two years running in 1971 and 1972. I didn't "run" either time. Was I too scared or too sensible? I think the latter. I witnessed (and photographed) many falls, tramplings and gorings. Not for me, I think. I couldn't even get drunk, as I was driving (the boss's car) on both occasions.
A great experience, though.
I think the anti-bullfight protesters should just leave it. It's too important a part of Spain's culture to just delete it.

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