Fiesta & Feasting in Pamplona by Javier Ansorena / photos by Hanna Quevedo, Luis Azanza and Maite Mateo. Guest Editor Laura Turegano
Two minutes and fifty-four seconds. That’s how long it takes the six bulls to run from their corral on the border of medieval Pamplona to the Plaza de Toros, the arena where they will fight to their death in the evening.
It’s a little after 8:00 AM in this cozy old town in Northern Spain. The Cradle of the Basques, this former capital of the Kingdom of Navarre, named after the Roman general Pompey, has become a prosperous and modern city in the last four decades. The three-minute encierro (running of the bulls) is a frantic run among wild bulls that attracts aficionados from Pamplona, enthusiasts from other parts of Spain, and an inexperienced crowd from almost every corner of the world, giving Pamplona international recognition. The encierro, which takes place every morning at 8:00 AM from July 7th to July 14th, is the most famous event of the sanfermines, the festival devoted to the local patron saint, San Fermín. The celebrations kick off on July 6th at noon and for nine days they transform a somewhat sleepy and conservative city into an explosion of music, food, bodies, and alcohol. With Pamplona’s amazing food as a guide, this is a trip through the 23 hours, 57 minutes and 6 seconds of insanity that follows the encierro every day during sanfermines.
A few seconds after the encierro has ended, Gorka Azpilicueta is meeting several fellow bull runners outside of a bar at the Estafeta, the main street where the running of the bulls takes place. In his mid-30s, Gorka has run every morning of the sanfermines since his teenage years. The emotions of the encierro still fresh, they all chatter about the adrenaline rush of running in front of a wild 1,300-pound animal with sharp horns. Though they don’t drink or eat at that moment, they may have an occasional patxarán, a local liquor made of anise and wild berries. But many other people in Pamplona would opt to start (or most of them finish) their day with churros. Locals and visitors find some rest or temper their stomachs after a long night of partying with a greasy bag of these traditional dough fritters, which are soaked in a thick, rich hot chocolate. The best churros in Pamplona are fried by Paulina Fernández and her family at La Mañueta. Every morning during the sanfermines you will find a line of patient customers along a steep street close to the cathedral. La Mañueta, a dark steamy hole-in-the-wall in medieval Pamplona, has served their traditional churros since Paulina’s grandfather started the business 140 years ago.
Published on Latin Lover issue #05