Pamplona memories 1984. My first San Fermin. By Chris Dwyer

There was a contingent of Garmisch adventurers that went to Pamplona every year for the Festival of San Fermin. Bomber was the most experienced runner in the group and told great stories about prior years and the close calls with the horns and riots between Basque locals and the police and military. The first time I heard him talk about Pamplona was when we were getting stoned together in Uganda in the shade of the Sikh temple wall, where they had come looking for a place to stay, but were turned away. I was immediately hooked on the idea of going to Pamplona and running with the bulls and was thinking about Spain when he and Goldie left me to walk through Kampala (3 miles with their packs) to the other Sikh temple to see if they had room for them to stay. The sun was going down and I worried for them. Very few people were on the street at night, it was a dangerous city after dark in 1983.

My friend Shred had somehow finagled vacation time from the kayak school and also wanted to go. A group of us rented a car and planned to leave Saturday, July 7 and drive straight though until we arrived in Spain. Robert was doing most of the driving and Mick was riding shotgun, and claimed that seat for the whole ride. Shred, Steamboat John and me in the back. We left in the afternoon traveling through the mountains of Austria and Switzerland then to Lyon and south through Pau and then crossing the snow capped Pyrenees at Candanchu and then into Spain and Jaca and finally Pamplona on the evening of the 9th. There were other caravans from Garmisch also making the trip and we were the last to arrive. We walked into Plaza Castillo just as the bullfights were letting out and the Pena bands were parading through the plaza. We found Bomber and Goldie other Garmischers drinking red wine from botas and sitting on the curb, across from the Bar Txoco.  It was about 10PM and the sun was just setting. It was warm and the town was alive with people coming from the bull fight to find a table on the square and watch the paseo from a comfortable vantage point with bebidas. Our plan was to buy some wine and fill up our botas and then walk the bull run course from start to finish. Bomber led the way out of the plaza to the bull ring and then down Calle Estafeta, the longest portion of the run. At the bottom of the street past La Curve and through Calle Mercaderes past the mayor’s palace and down Calle Santo Domingo, to the beginning of the bull run where the corales for the bulls are. The pen was full of the next days animals and the police kept things quiet down here, so as not to allow drunks to disturb the bulls.

We went for a drink at Bomber’s favorite place, Le Mejillonera, the Mussel Bar. It was in the sketchy part of town on Plaza Navarreria. People were diving off the statue in front of the bar into the waiting arms of the crowd below. The street was full of trash and plastic cups and bottles. The crowd was rough and the neighborhood was dirty. This is where the punk rockers and misfits of fiesta were hanging out. Not the place to bring your Mom at night. It smelled like urine and puke. People were lighting fireworks and throwing torpedoes that exploded on impact. There were no police to be seen down here. The beer was cheap and we hung out for a few hours watching the the underbelly of fiesta in front of us, before heading out of town to where we were camping that night, near the waterfalls.

We were up at six and back in Pamplona before seven. All our bags were still in the car and we decided that somebody had to stay with the vehicle to guard our stuff. It was a hard choice and in the end John volunteered to stay. Just at that moment Louise and the girls pulled up in their car and parked next to us. Louise generously offered to stay behind and freed John to run the bulls.

I went to the square first and found a bathroom to relieve myself. We all met in front of the mayor’s palace and waited for 8AM. At 7:45 they let us walk up the street through Mercaderes around La Curve and up the canyon like street of Estafeta with six story buildings lining the street. Once you started up the street there was no exit until you reached the top, four hundred meters uphill. We found our spots to stand at the top of Estafeta where it gets wider. The next section curves left for about 200 meters and then funnels down to the left into the narrowest portion, a bottleneck tunnel called the callejon, leading into the bull ring.

I found a perch in the niche of a doorway on the left and waited with a few thousand others. Ten minutes gave me plenty of time to question my resolve. My mouth was dry and I was sweating and could smell the bad breath and stink of hangover wafting through the dense crowd around me. The sound of giddy laughter and incessant chatter identified the very nervous. There were others who were obviously veterans, who calmly read the newspaper with a quite smile just as if they were waiting for a bus on their day off. The cobblestone street was wet from the morning dew. We were all wearing red scarves around our necks and half of the crowd was dressed all in white. Basque flags were everywhere. The police were posted along the fence to prevent runners from vaulting the barricades, unless there was a bull goring someone, then they tried to pull them over the fence and out of harm’s way if they could.

There was a group of locals moving through the crowd looking for women. I saw them take the hat off a girl, revealing her long hair, and then picking her up and tossing her over the barricade and warning her to stay out. There was a long tradition of expelling women from the encierro. I only saw this once and it was a dying tradition in 1984. Plenty of girls snuck in and ran however.

The first rocket went off at exactly 8AM. This signals that the gate of the corrales has been opened. Twenty seconds later a second rocket explodes, letting us know that all the animals are out of the pen and running in the street. The crowd starts to thin out and many runners have run into the bull arena, before the bulls are any where near them. These runners are sarcastically referred  to as, “Los Valientes” or the brave ones. At one minute, you can hear the crowd react to the bulls coming up the street, at the bottom of Estafeta. The runners near me are jumping up and down , trying to see the vanguard of the approaching bulls. The crowd gets louder and starts moving faster as it passes me. I see the first two bulls go by and then I jump into the flow of runners chasing the lead bulls ahead of us, and in front of the bulls behind us. I swerved left to avoid fallen runners and ran up on the curb around the pile of fallen bodies. A Bull has fallen and the runners in front of me have stopped and are staring down a lone bull to the right, that has just gotten to its feet and is about to charge at us. I am against the wall with two others, when I see what was about to happen.

Time had slowed down and I was starting to back up when a runner ran between the bull and where I was on the curb. The bull looked to its right and saw another lone runner against the wall and charged, impaling Steven Townsend in the groin and lifting him into the air. When he landed the bull charged again and gored him in the thigh, rupturing his femoral artery. A famous picture of this moment circulated around the world on the front page of the International Herald Tribune showing Townsend in all his agony, screaming with the bull looking him in the eye as it trampled over him. The bull charged again and again, goring and tossing Steve until he was in shock and had almost bled out. His blood was everywhere. It was one of the worst gorings in the history of San Fermin. There were two other bulls also trying to gore people further up the street in a section called Teléfonos. I watched this all happen in front of me and was scared of being the victim as well. I was about to climb under the barricade, but stopped and forced myself to stay in the street. Just then I saw a fourth bull ten meters to my right. I ran to the left, around the far side of the bull goring Townsend,  up the street where the other two bulls were causing havoc. I slowed down a bit and saw an opening and ran by the lead bull towards the tunnel, through the callejon.

The bulls I had run by had caught up to me and were close when I came into the plaza de toros. It was dusty and crowded and the audience was screaming as I entered. I was winded and my mouth was so dry that I could hardly talk. The bulls eventually came into the arena where the doubledores used their capes to lead the animals through the plaza toward the Toril and into their pens. Most runs are over in 2-3 minutes, but today’s encierro was much longer and had many lone bull/goring situations in the street. Back where I had started, Steven Townsend, 1st. Lt. US Army, was being saved by the experienced trauma teams who were waiting in the wings, watching as the carnage unfolded. As soon as Townsend was free of his tormentor, a doctor wearing sterile gloves had squeezed through the wooden barricade and immediately started first aid. He put his hand inside the gaping thigh wound and grabbed the pulsing femoral artery which stopped the hemorrhage and saved his life. He needed 14 pints of whole blood to sustain him through surgery. From the time he was gored to the time he was operated on, was less than 20 minutes. This rapid response and the experienced and well prepared emergency services were the reasons he didn’t die from his injuries. After fiesta I heard that Townsend had been court martialed and charged with destroying government property. It was his first run as well and I was standing right next to him just before he was gored.

I was still in the arena, trying my luck dodging the smaller and faster vacas running around with padded horns, not as dangerous as the fighting bulls we just ran with. My throat was so dry that it hurt. My pants were ripped and I was covered in dust. The other Garmischers in the arena were in shock for how violent the days run had been. Some of them had run in early with los valientes and had no idea what had just happened. We exited the arena and went back to Plaza Castillo and Bar Txoco to meet up with our friends and see if anyone got hurt.

The rush of adrenaline had taken over and I had a feeling of hyperawareness. Body and mind were in sync and tuned in. I was high from the danger that had just passed me by. It looked me in the face and I saw its eyes and smelled its rank breath. In that split second before Townsend was gored, the stink of the manure smeared on the bull’s flanks filled the air and he was grunting and snorting and scraping with its hooves on the cobblestones. I saw the bull looking for a target, drooling with his tongue sticking out and breathing heavily. It was as tall as me and all muscle and its black hide was wet and shining.  For a second, the bull looked my way and then turned and looked at Townsend; he flinched. The crowd screamed when the bull charged ahead, goring him in the groin and tossing him in the air. When he landed, instead of laying still, he tried to get up and when the bull saw this he charged again, pinning Townsend to the street and tearing through his left thigh. I saw his terrified face and puddles of blood from one side of the street to the other. The bull was relentless and fixated on subduing Townsend. His last act was to slowly walk over Townsend probing with his horns and looking for movement. Then he walked away and was led up the street by the Pastores prodding the animal with their long sticks. Townsend was nearly unconscious when the bull finally left him alone.

At Bar Txoko, I saw Shred and Bomber and the others who had just run. Cliff and John had also had close calls with the horns. They were trying to avoid the two sueltos that were goring people in Telefonos. It had been an historic day for gorings and injuries, with three animals all goring people at the last section of the encierro before entering the plaza de toros. I also witnessed great acts of bravery. One runner who was trying to save Townsend, was pulling the bull by its tail and then reaching from behind and grabbing its testicles and pulling. The bull barely noticed and instead concentrated on mauling its prey. We were all trading notes and had lots to talk about. I  remember saying to GT, “That was really heavy! Is it always like that!!? WTF!!!”. We had started drinking and I wasn’t the only one with an adrenaline high. All of us were flying and the beer and wine hardly made a dent. We hadn’t eaten yet and didn’t mind. Our appetites were suppressed and time was flying by now. By early afternoon we wandered over to a party or enfermeria at the Eslava Hotel.

I met Matt Carney at the Txoco that morning and he invited us all to the party. He was holding court at the bar, drinking with some of the local Basque runners who grew up on the streets of Pamplona and were well known as expert coreadores. James Michener had featured Matt in his book Iberia and highlighted Matt’s fame as the premier American Runner at the time. He also recounted the time when Matt Carney and Hemingway got into an argument and there were harsh words and threats exchanged. Matt, the ex US Marine, was in his prime and would have won any contest or fight. It started when Matt offered Hem a drink from his bota. The cap was loose and one of Hem’s friends accused Matt of setting Hem up, and having his bota pour out all of its wine at once, making a mess, instead of a long drawn-out stream, which is traditional and preferred. The cap being loose was not intentional.  It was a misunderstanding blown out of proportion by the sycophants Hem was getting drunk with. Hem made a big deal out of the incident and got out of his chair and made toward Matt. His entourage “held” him back in a comical display of the indignant artist defending his image and honor. Nothing happened.

Matt had charisma and people were drawn to him. He was handsome and told great stories. When I met him he was with the local runners discussing what had just happened in the street and all agreed what a dangerous day it had been. We all wondered if the man who was badly gored had survived. We didn’t know his name or nationality yet. Matt was standing with Attanasio and his friends from the Anaitasuna Pena, which Matt belonged to and had the honor as the only foreigner made a member of their club for runners. They were all wearing the traditional colors of white and red. White clothing with a red scarf around their neck and a red sash around their waist. The red panuelo around their necks had the crest of the Anaitasuna pena, one of the oldest penas in Pamplona.

In the basement of the Eslava Hotel, we drank the traditional “red shit and yellow shit”. Buckets filled with Bloody Marys and Screw-drivers. Our host , Magoo, had also put some tapas out to soak up the booze and help us stay awake. Matt was telling us about the traditions of fiesta and how important it was to respect the locals and try to understand what it means to be Basque. He spoke about how they had struggled and were repressed under Franco, and why they are so proud of their heritage. Ten years before, it was illegal to speak in Basque or sing their songs or dance their jotas. Ten years later there was a resurgence of culture but the Basque were still under siege from the government.This was because hard-line separatist members of ETA were demanding their own country and had initiated a campaign of assassinations and bombings throughout Spain and was promoting autonomy through violent revolution. Many ETA members came to Pamplona for the Festival of San Fermin despite being wanted by police, military and secret hit squads from Madrid.

We were enthralled by Matt’s understanding of the locals and his advise about fiesta and how to run bulls. Later on Matt recited ‘The Raven” by Poe and the room fell silent. He then started to sing an Irish song, “Wearin’ of The Green”. I handed Matt a refill and he asked about me and how I came to Pamplona. I told him about my Dad and my uncle who were both Marines. My Uncle Jim Dwyer was a veteran of the battles on Tarawa, Wake Island, and Guadalcanal. He knew and was friends with John Basilone. He was punished after Guadalcanal for beating up an artillery Major in the middle of battle because he was shelling his troops. He had been The Sergeant Major of Guantanamo Bay for two years when he was forced to become a Lieutenant just before the attack on Guadalcanal. Punishment took a crooked turn, and he was promoted to Captain but given command of a naval Brig in San Francisco. He hated this assignment and drank himself out of the Marines. Matt asked about me; my education, what I was doing in Germany for the US Army, my trip through Africa, and what I thought about Pamplona. Then he asked how my run was today and I told him about where I was and what I saw and where I ended up. He was clapping me on the back and saying my baptism by fire was special and I would never have another first run or be as scarred again because now I was a “Veteran”! He was leaving to go to the corrida and said he would see me in the morning in the street and gave me an abrazo fuerte. He reminded me of my Dad and had certain mannerisms and a cadence in his tone of an old Marine. A confident bering and square shoulders and a clean pressed uniform with ribbons and medals. Matt had a gift for making you feel important when he talked to you. It was part of his charm and he was good at it. He would put both hands on your shoulders and look you in the eye and then say his piece. It was easy to see why he was so admired.

Soon it was time to leave for the bull fights. I didn’t have tickets, so we got more beer and went to the park and took a nap. Robert found us later and told us that our car had been broken into and some of our bags were stolen. I lost one out of two bags and all my clothes. I had hidden my documents and money and valuables in the car and they weren’t taken. I had the clothes on my back and a jacket. A friend let me put my bag in his hotel room at La Perla. Shred also had most of his stuff stolen. We wandered through the town and back down to the mussel bar and the statue where people were diving off. GT called this part of town “Apocalypse Now”. It was darker and dirtier than the rest of the old town and is near where the Punk Rockers sleep on the sidewalks during fiesta. We stayed out all night and spent a few hours in a hard chair, napping before the run.

The horror of the day before was today’s headlines. My picture was on the front page of Navarra Hoy with Townsend and a suelto coming at us. There many pictures of townsend being attacked. It made clear how lucky I was not to have been gored.

We all gathered in front of Ayuntamiento and waited together. Matt came over greeting all of us and saying “Suerte”. He told me that he had seen the newspapers already and saw my picture standing near Townsend and to find him after the run to  talk about it. We walked up the street as a group and Matt stayed at the bottom of Calle Estafeta. I went back to where I was the day before. Shred was across the street from me with Bomber and a few others, near the bus stop and Bar Fitero. The first rocket went off and 6 seconds later another. All the bulls were now out of the pen and running. A minute later we heard the crowd screaming at the bottom of Estafeta as the bulls rounded the curve and started up the street. The sound got louder as they got closer. I saw the lead bulls all in a tight pack quickly coming toward us. The pace of the herd is out running anyone in front it and parting the crowd. I don’t see an opening and the pack passes by so quickly that when I start running they are all ahead of me and I am trying to catch up but miss my shot. I run with the crowd and into the arena to see the bulls exit the plaza into their pens on the otherside. It was a fast time of 2.08 minutes. Clean and quick. We stayed in the plaza for the vacas and then went back to Txoco for a drink and a head count. I now understood how special my first run was because of how different today’s run was.

I saw Matt with his pena brothers in front of the Txoco. I was sitting with Art and Tim and Curly and GT. He came over and joined us. The conversation quickly covered the days uneventful run. Rapido y limpia. When the bulls are moving that fast it’s hard to get in front of them to set up for a run. None of us got any time with the bulls that day. Matt turned the attention to that days paper and my photo on the front page. “Your in a bad spot there, against the wall with a suelto looking at you. Pretty exciting first run though, eh?”. The whole table laughed. “Next time, if you can, take the middle of the street instead of the sidewalk, you have more room to move.”. “Can I run with you one of these days?”. “Well , sure. Why not!? Maybe tomorrow, we’ll play it by ear.”.

We spent the day swimming at the waterfalls and napping in the sun. My car mates were talking about leaving Pamplona early and driving to the Montreux Jazz Fest in Switzerland. I was against this idea and argued with Robert, but he who rents the car and has the keys, makes the rules and after the next days bull run my ride would be leaving with or without Chris.

The next few days were a blur of bars and naps in hard metal chairs. I ran each day but never got to run with Matt that year. I was sleeping in doorways and the park. After the runs I hung out with Curly and GT and Art and Tim and Jerry. All my buddies from Garmisch were gone. My clothes were dirty and stained with red wine and blood, I had been wearing them since my first day in Spain. The morning of the 14th I got a ride out of town with Jim from Heidelberg. At the French border I switched with him and drove north. We stopped outside Paris for a short break and saw the fireworks of Bastille Day over the city. When we reached Heidelberg he dropped me off at the train station and after stopping in Munich and enjoying a bratwurst and Helles at my favorite Kiosk in the Hauptbahnhof, I was back in Garmisch that afternoon.

Sanfermines 2017, the most vindicated fiestas

Photos: Javier Martínez de la Puente

Hard though it is to accept, the fact is that Sanfermin 2017 is all over. After the final Pobre de Mí event took place at midnight, in City Hall square, the teardrops – yes, even the most hardened of us let slip a tear or two, let’s admit it – the time has come to put away the red sash and necktie and let our bodies recognize and accept the tiredness and fatigue that inevitably comes once the fiestas have come to a close.

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Lucinda Poole, nueva Guiri del año posa con la mano sobre la barbilla

Face to face with Lucinda Poole, “Guiri” of the year

Picture by  José Luis Larrión

American journalist, Lucinda Poole, will be awarded during Sanfermin 2017 with the XIV Premio Guiri del Año, an award which is given each year by Kukuxumusu and Sanfermin.com to a foreigner who has stood out for their love of the Sanfermin fiestas. This year, in its fourteenth edition, the winner of this award is the versatile journalist and translator, Lucinda Poole, who will follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner, Englishman Tim Pinks.

Lucinda Poole is a 60 year-year-old woman, from Chapel Hill (North Carolina) and she has been associated with the Pamplona fiestas for more than three decades now. Indeed, her first writing on the fiestas was a guide book published as “Don’t Be a Foreigner in Sanfermines”(1982).

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Imagen de Lucinda Poole frente a la obra completa de Hemingway en un posado.

Kukuxumusu awards American journalist Lucinda Poole with the “Guiri Del Año” award of Sanfermin 2017

Photo by José Luis Larrión

American journalist, Lucinda Poole, will be awarded during Sanfermin 2017 with the XIV Premio Guiri del Año, an award which is given each year by Kukuxumusu and Sanfermin.com to a foreigner who has stood out for their love of the Sanfermin fiestas. This year, in its fourteenth edition, the winner of this award is the versatile journalist and translator, Lucinda Poole, who will follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner, Englishman Tim Pinks. Continue reading…

Presentación de la iniciativa del vaso reciclable con Armando Cuenca.

How the system of recycled drinking glasses will work in Sanfermin

This afternoon, the Area of Urban Ecology and Sustainable Mobility from Pamplona City Hall, has invited representatives from the catering and bar sector as well as other interested citizens to a meeting – discussion session in order to present an outlined plan to promote the use of recycled drinking glasses during the Sanfermin fiestas of 2017 in the hope of achieving more sustainable fiestas this coming July. While some details remain to be agreed upon, the target of, “0 Plastic” is the aim behind these steps to try to replace the throwaway plastic glasses which have been in use over these past several years. It is hoped to reduce the garbage content of the plastic glasses by some 75% (56.000 kilograms less). Some earlier experiments carried out at other large -crowd events such as Nafarroa Oinez, Gora Iruñea, Bayonne, Terrassa as well as some other smaller trials made by the City Hall of Pamplona during Sanfermin Txikito in September, have led the authorities to believe that there exists a good base on which to try to implement the changes for the coming Sanfermin fiestas in 2017.

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1969 Open Ceremony. Launcher Joaquín Sáez. Photo from Ferrándiz and Ardanaz

Adrift on a tidal flow to Fiesta, by Tim Pinks

Dear Fiesteras and Fiesteros: This was written about two months ago, for the second of the second, yup, Escalera Day, but due to Mr. Testis being rather busy in his Bulldom, we’ve had to wait a while before it could be put onto the Sanfermin.com pages. However, with the arrival of the fourth of April and hence Escalera Day numero cuatro…here we go. Hey ho, let’s go and Ya Falta Menos! 

It’s the second day of the second month as I write this and the Escalera to fiesta has well and truly begun, and at this time of the year up here in my tree-tower eyrie near the River Thames, with Hampton Court Palace but a mile away as the eagle flies, my thoughts turn as ever turn to Pamplona.

So although the countdown to San Fermin has already started, there’s still awhile to go of course which always makes me feel like I’m fiesta-floating, adrift on a sea of shifting calendar dates that slowly slide by with the tide…still heading towards land, (i.e: Pamplona) but with a fair bit of drifting to go before I make landfall. In July.

So I read, and I write, and I dream. Talking of reading, I love books. A few years ago, one of these articles was made up purely about Fiesta books. This one isn’t going to be like that, but I am going to mention a couple of books that you may like. I know I did. They are not particularly about Pamplona or San Fermin, but just have Spain as the common background, to give us that tantalising taste of the flavour of fiesta to come.

Winston Churchill said about books: ‘’If you cannot read all your books, fondle them, then peer into them, let them fall apart where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan, so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them, at any rate, be your acquaintances.’’

Personally, to take me away from everything, nothing beats a good book. They just work for me. If you should happen to get around to any of the ones mentioned, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

As so often with these Sanfermin.com scribbles, this one is going to be a bit of a mixed salad, and so I’m also going to write about a wee bit of rocket. No, not the lettuce, foodies, but the chupinazo, fiesteros. For those that don’t know yet, Fiesta begins at midday on July 6th with the Chupinazo, and the launching of the first – but only one of many – rockets from one of the town hall’s balconies. I’m just going to dip into the history of it a little bit…which will give me a chance to nip back into the past, too, which I always enjoy.

Then comes the book bit, but after that, something new that I’m really chuffed about, which I’ll return to occasionally, maybe even in every article I do for Kuku. I’ve given it the title ‘The Drifter,’ which, as will become clear when you read it is rather apt, as my first victim, sorry, guest, is the one and only, inimitable and inestimable, Rolf von Essen. Although his first San Fermin was in 1959, he was one of the group that also happened to hang around Torremolinos in the 60’s…

… Which is where the gang that appear in James Micheners’ book ‘The Drifters’ also first meet up. Which also happens to be the book that changed my life, as the first place that the characters in the story travel to after Torremolinos is Pamplona. In July. For Fiesta… And thus my life was altered for ever.

But first, a bit of rocketry.

ROCKET ENGINEERING – IT’S ALL PART OF FIESTA SCIENCE!

The square, a crowd, and a man with a lot of rockets. Once upon a time in Pamplona.
The square, a crowd, and a man with a lot of rockets. Once upon a time in Pamplona.

Okay, let’s get one thing straight. The phrase ‘it’s not rocket science’ is wrong. My brother Mike taught me it should be; ‘it’s not rocket engineering.’ Why? Because when we say ‘’it’s not rocket science’’ we mean that something isn’t difficult…like building a rocket obviously is. Ah ha! So there we are.

Here’s the pedantic point: Rocke engineering is the building of the rocket…a very tricky thing to get right…and rocket science is the actual getting it to where it’s going! (Quite a difficult thing too, probably, it has to be said…)

Thus is stands to my (fairly warped) reason… There are many, many things that make up fiesta – the chupinazo, the encierros, the corridas, the peñas, and a thousand and one other things…and all these are the cogs in the machine, the engineering, that make up, and get us to where we want to be…to the extraordinary, chaotic and organised anarchic science that is Fiesta! Although I’ve also often written…San Fermin…you just couldn’t make it up.

So, the Chupinazo. From the very beginning of the year, with the 1st of January and the first day of the Escalera, a small, invisible rocket goes off inside my head with a little bang… a rocket that goes off again on the 2nd of February, and then again on the 3rd of March, the bang each time increasing in volume until the 6th, when it’s very loud and I know that the next time I hear those rockets it’ll be midday on July 6th, and they won’t be imaginary ones in my head but real ones. Because that’s when Pamplona’s own version of the Big Bang erupts and the old world stops for nine days and nights, and the city slips off its cosmic axis and our universe goes spinning out of control as San Fermin and The Giants come out to play.

Just why do they launch a volley of rockets into the sky at midday on the 6th of July to herald the start of the world’s greatest fiesta? It might seem obvious in this day and age – ‘’oh, we have an event going on, let’s baptise it with a bang and make some noise’’ – but it wasn’t always thus.

No. But unsurprisingly for Pamplona and the inmates that live within…it all started with some locals.

Rocketry

One man and his rocket: señor Etxepare. That's all it takes to tip the earth off its axis.
One man and his rocket: señor Etxepare. That’s all it takes to tip the earth off its axis.

We’re so used to some of the fiesta traditions we’ve grown to know and love that we can end up just taking them for granted and assuming things were for ever thus. Like the rockets launched off the town hall main balcony at midday on the 6th, for example. But actually, that act of fiesta only became an official part of the festivities in 1941.

Although there are slightly different versions, it seems that the first time rockets were launched at the beginning of fiesta it was down to a company called Oroquieta, who perhaps unofficially decided it would be a good idea to start San Fermin with a bang, and so they did…from the Plaza del Castillo.

This was done for many years from at least 1901, until with the arrival of the 2nd Republic, and a well known republican called Etxepare decided to make things more official and gave the act a name. (No where can I find out if this was ‘Chupinazo’ but hey, we’re getting there.) It was still being done in the Plaza del Castillo though, and carried on until the fiesta of 1936.

After that, the bleak clouds of Civil War came, Etxepare was shot, fiesta was suspended for a couple of years as the shadows enveloped, and blackness fell…and no doubt somewhere in that darkness, San Fermin cried. Light returned in one form or another and fiesta was back for 1939, when a councillor, Joaquin Ilundain, gave himself the honour of lighting the first rocket, still in the square I believe.

Then, along with a journalist, Jose Maria Perez Salazar, they promoted the idea of making the whole thing more organised and become an official part of the ceremonies…and so it came to pass that in 1941 the rocket was launched, for the first time, from the balcony of the town hall…and the Chupinazo as we know it was born. And that, chicas and chicos, is how it has been done ever since.

There was only one year it wasn’t launched from the Ayuntamiento in the Plaza Consistorial, and that was in 1952, when the old building was being renovated. For that year the Chupinazo was launched from the balcony of the temporary town hall buildings they were using, located in the Plaza del Vinculo, (then called the Plaza de la República Argentina) which is just off the Paseo de Sarasate, near the big old Correos, the main post office.

And a fitting place it was, too, actually, because way back when, between 1849 and 1852, that very place happened to be where a temporary bull ring was erected while the ‘new’ one, (1852-1921) was being constructed. What goes around can so often come around again and once more, sometimes you just couldn’t script it.

uanito Etxepare, ‘Mr. Txupinazo’ perhaps. Oh, and out of interest… I wonder what happened to the wee chap in the middle at the bottom, the only one in red and white?
Juanito Etxepare, ‘Mr. Txupinazo’ perhaps. Oh, and out of interest… I wonder what happened to the wee chap in the middle at the bottom, the only one in red and white?

A BOOK OR THREE

I’ve done the occasional book review before but these aren’t reviews, I’m just going to mention briefly three books that I think are worth a read. None of them are particularly Pamplona related, they just have an Iberian flavour to them to tickle your fiesta taste buds.

In the ‘definitely worth a read’ category are two books by Mark Oldfield, but the great thing here is there is going  to be a third, as they are part of a soon to be completed trilogy. As always, whether I know the author or not, (and I know Mark) I will be honest in what I say. Happily, with Mark’s books…I love ‘em!

The Sentinel. Mark Oldfield.

‘The Sentinel’ was the first, published in 2012, followed by ‘The Exile’ in 2015. The books sprawl through Spain’s recent history, from 1936 and the Spanish Civil War, to the mid –fifties and Franco’s dictatorship, and then present day Spain.

There are two main protagonists, Comandante Leopold Guzman, head of Franco’s secret police in the 1950’s and easily one of the most evil, heartless and cruel baddies ever invented, and forensic investigator Ana Maria Galíndez, of the present day Guardia Civil

The Sentinel begins the story, interweaving the three separate timelines effortlessly and intriguingly, without ever getting so complicated that one literally loses the plot. In this short space I can’t begin to describe what goes on, suffice to say the dictatorial days of Spain under Franco are truly brought to life, while all the time keeping the page-turning suspense and the ‘what’s-going-to-happen-next‘ feeling going…it’s a real humdinger of a book

The Exile. Mark Oldfield

In ‘The Exile’ our evil anti-hero, Guzmán, is transferred to San Sebastian and the Basque Country, where the story carries on, and where the mysteries pile up, and Guzman’s past begins to catch up with him. Now, I’ve obviously never been to the Basque Country in the 1950’s, but the beautiful city of San Sebastian and the gorgeous surrounding countryside are brought vividly to life – or should that be death – by Oldfield’s atmospheric encapsulation of a ‘foreign’ city (it’s Basque, after all) and the surrounds under Franco’s oppressive occupation and bloody jackboot.

Regarding ‘Sentinel’ The Guardian said, ‘Polished and impressive.’ The Literary Review wrote, ’Remarkably accomplished. An atmospheric picture of a country still scarred by its past.’ The Daily Mail: ‘A sprawling, striking debut, superbly told, with a fine villain at its heart. This is a remarkable thriller.’

About ‘Exile’ The New York Journal of Books said’ ‘Powerful, hypnotic…filled with the horror of conflict, treachery, and intrigue.’
Well done Mark, (who, by the way, has been to San Fermin about 14 times over the last 40 years) those are two cracking novels and I honestly can’t wait for the final book in the series.

Pizarra to Pamplona. Across Spain on Horseback, by Jim Hollander

The third book is by that well known Sanferminero and internationally renowned photographer, Jim Hollander. Amongst certain fans of fiesta his door-stopping tome, ‘Run To The Sun’ is a classic, (and well worth the aircraft ‘excess baggage’ weight fee you may have to pay!) but it’s not that one I’m here to write about as I’ve written about it a couple of times before.

Nope, it’s his latest one, ‘From Pizarra to Pamplona.’ This is a delightful book that, although only published last year, was actually ‘written’ in 1973. The words are from a diary the then 23 year old Jim kept, and the photos are those that he took along the way. Oh, ‘the way?’

Well, it’s in the title, of course, but ‘the way’ was a 1000km horse ride the Hollander family undertook from Pizarra, near Malaga on the southern coast, to Pamplona, fabled capital of Navarra, over the course of several weeks. I first read it just before last year’s Fiesta, and again just recently. While none of us can write like Shakespeare or Cervantes of course, it’s a remarkably well written and smoothly flowing diary that paints a wonderful picture of the adventure, just as sure as his photographs do.

It’s a gentle, leisurely, clip-clopping hoof through a Spain that was about to change forever, due to the death of the dictator a couple of years later and the arrival of the country into the European Union just over a decade after that. I wrote this somewhere else, but I love the bit near the end of the journey – but not the end of the book – where he writes: ‘Before arriving in Tudela we cross into the Province of Navarra – BIG SMILES!’

Whether you’re stuck in a northern hemisphere winter and want a slice of sizzling Spanish sun, or are a southern hemisphere dweller yearning for some memories of the Land of Fiesta, and Siesta, and so much more…this is a great, not so much ‘off-the-wall’ but from-the-saddle wee travel book and I love it. And always, always…the Land of The Big Smile awaits.

FIESTA DRIFTER

As Rolf wrote, about this photo – ‘Aupa la jotita.’ July 8th, 2012.
As Rolf wrote, about this photo – ‘Aupa la jotita.’ July 8th, 2012.

In a previous life I was a courier, driving around the UK in a small van. When I was stuck in London or the Home Counties I used to listen on local BBC London Radio to a chap called Robert Elms. He has a great show, (he also happens to be a fluent Spanish speaker and is a bullfight aficionado, but that’s just coincidence, and I believe a couple of you out there know him) and once a week he has a slot called ‘Listed Londoner.’

A guest, always someone who has ‘done’ something, is invited on to the show, who lives, or has lived, in the city, whether born there or not, and is asked a series of questions, the ‘list’ about London. Well, with apologies to señor Olmos, I’ve borrowed the idea and transferred it to Pamplona, Navarra, Fiestaland.

(As an aside, I’m writing this bit on Monday 6th Feb while listening to the Robert Elms Show and his Listed Londoner today is a lady called Jumoke’ Fashola. And I like the fella even more now, as he’s just said – and all my friends who know what a techno-numpty I am will understand this – that he doesn’t have a mobile phone. Top man!)

Back to Pamplona. I’ve chosen Rolf von Essen to be Driftero Numero Uno for many reasons, but they’re all encompassed by one thing: of all the foreign fiesta-folk I know, he has been going the longest. So it’s because he knows a lot, has done a lot, has massive enthusiasm for all things Iberian and taurine related…and because he’s a mate.

Rolf with a big fiesta smile next to another escaped inmate.
Rolf with a big fiesta smile next to another escaped inmate.

He hasn’t been able to make it back for the last couple of years due to his keeping the nurses busy in his native Sweden, but boy does he have some stories to tell about his travels and experiences over his 50 years plus being immersed in the Iberian and taurine world.

Remember, too, that this part of the piece is just one short snippet of his life concentrated on Pamplona. Those of us who have seen a few of his other stories on social media have read a smidgen more of his adventures, and the following comprises just a mere fraction of that smidgen that makes up the Pamplona portion of his life.

So, hey ho, let’s go. I’ve written it and said it before, and whether one likes the phrase or not – there are certain folk who I think of as Pamplona Royalty, and Rolf is certainly one of them. And so, señoras y señores, indeed damas y caballeros, and perhaps, as I regard some Sanfermineros as Pamplona Royalty, duquesas y duques, it’s time for my very first ‘Fiesta Drifter.’

And for the very last time shall he be known as Rolf von Essen, because from now on he will be known by one or two of his many nom-de-plumes, nom-de-guerre’s, nom-de corrida’s and indeed, noms-known-by-the-authorities…

Take it away, Rey Rolfo…

THE DRIFTER

RODOLFO VON ESSEN – El Niño de la Caseta.

Born 1938 in Helsinki, Finland. Resident in Stockholm, Sweden. Nationality: Swedish. Blood type: P. For ‘patxaran…’ Oh, and Artistic Director of La Escuela Taurina 'La Candelaria' of Bogotá, Colombia, 1985 – 1987.
Born 1938 in Helsinki, Finland. Resident in Stockholm, Sweden. Nationality: Swedish.Under The House of The Nobility of Sweden, I am a Baron. Blood type: P. For ‘Patxarán…’ Oh, and Artistic Director of La Escuela Taurina ‘La Candelaria’ of Bogotá, Colombia, 1985 – 1987.

Okay folks, here’s the first paragraph that Rolf sent me about himself, which I hope will encourage you to click on the link after it, to read more about how he fell in love with the bulls, the bullfight, ‘el mundo taurine’ and hence, of course…’el arte.’

ROLF: Foreign Languages, I speak 8. I have lived under 4 wars: The Finnish Winter War, WWII, the Katanga War (the Congo), and the drug related and guerrilla controlled war condition in Colombia in the 1980’s. The guerrillas used to partly finance their operation by the kidnappings of foreigners against ransom. It happened to several of my colleagues, some of them never returned.

My first registered reminiscence of bullfighting dates from August 29th or 30th, 1947, when a Stockholm newspaper… (Tim: click here for the story in full, folks.)

The King in one of his castles.
The King in one of his castles.

Tim 1: What are your five favourite books to do with what I call ‘Fiestaland.’ (Spain, Iberia, Navarra, etc.) Perhaps a taurine book, a fiesta book, a fictional book, a factual book, any other relevant and related book…the choice is yours to mix and match as you please!
Rolf 1: Five favourite books: 1: LOS TOROS by José María Cossío. 30 volumes. 2: IBERIA by James A. Michener. 3: ‘The Drifters’ by James A. Michener. 4: ‘The Sun Also Rises’ by Ernest Hemingway. 5: ‘Death in the Afternoon’ by Ernest Hemingway. 6: BRAVE EMPLOYMENT by Walter Johnston.
Tim – That’s six books Rolf! And apart from the Cossio 30 volumes, I’ve got the others of course!)

Tim 2: Favourite Pamplona or San Fermin book. (Okay Rolf…books!):
Rolf 2: The Drifters by James A. Michener. 2: Las Bodas de Pamela by Hans ‘To-To’ Tovoté.  3: PAMPLONA by Ray Mouton

Tim 3: Favourite Fictional Sanferminero:
Rolf 3: Harvey Holt, “The Tech Rep”, from The Drifters. Tim – Ha! Had to be. A great choice.)

Tim 4: Favourite fiesta/taurine film or documentary:
Rolf 4: Blood and Sand (1941) directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Rita Hayworth, Anthony Quinn.

Tim 5: Favourite Spanish music/band/singer.
Rolf 5: Manolo Escobar, El Camarón de La Isla and Raimundo Lanas.

Tim 6: Favourite San Fermin real life foreigner of film, music, writing, etc.
Rolf 6: Orson Welles.

 

 Feria de Sevilla 2009. Rolf and friends, doing the paseo. On the left his lawyer from Bogata, Eduardo, and wife Nora. Then there’s Esperanza, wife of…Adolfo, who is sitting on the right next to Rolf. Esperanza and Adolfo are owners of one of his favourite Feria de Sevilla casetas, and this is their private horse carriage, drawn by six black Arab stallions.
Feria de Sevilla 2009. Rolf and friends, doing the paseo. On the left his lawyer from Bogotá, Eduardo, and wife Nora. Then there’s Esperanza, wife of… Adolfo, who is sitting on the right next to Rolf. Esperanza and Adolfo are owners of one of his favourite Feria de Sevilla casetas, and this is their private horse carriage, drawn by six black Arab stallions.

Tim 7: Favourite torero(s) and favourite plaza de toros, including the present day and the past.
Rolf 7: Favourite toreros of the present day: Morante de La Puebla, Talavante, and Andrés Roca Rey. Favourite plaza present day: La Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla.
Bullfighter of the past: Antonio Ordóñez Araujo. Plaza of the past: La Monumental de Barcelona.

Pamplona 1971, with Eleonore.
Pamplona 1971, with Eleonore.

Tim 8: Favourite bar in Pamplona.
Rolf 8: Bar Fitero, calle Estafeta.

Tim 9: Favourite restaurant:
Rolf 9: In the past: Hartza (Cuesta de Labrit.) Las Pocholas (El Rey Noble) when it was on Paseo Sarasate. Casa Mauleón. Casa Marceliano. Otano. Aralar. Amostegui.
Present day: Europa, Bar Savoy, San Ignacio.

Tim 10: Favourite trip within Spain. (And a ‘Tim’ note: Please, please read Rolf’s full account of this trip in the extra ‘link’ below!).
Rolf 10: El tren Correo, the mail train, Barcelona-Pamplona on July 5th. I am now speaking 1960’s. This was a complete adventure. One could NOT call somewhere and have a ticket reserved, NO, one had to get it in person from the taquilla at the station and not until the very day of departure!

Tim: As mentioned above, folks, please read the full story on the link below. Have you ever had to get out and PUSH the train that was taking you to Pamplona? Rolf has, I kid you not…read on folks here!)

Tim 11: Invent a pintxo and a brand new fiesta cocktail!
Rolf 11: Pintxo: Fresh duck liver, sautéd in water, butter and Oloroso sherry, spiced with black pepper from mill, junipers, sea salt, on toasted white bread. (Superb, Rolf!)
Drink: 10 cl Underberg, a dash of Tabasco, 2 cl Vodka, tomato juice. Shaken, not stirred, served in highball, on the rocks. Kills ANY hangover. The Red Shit of the 22nd century!

(Probably horses, too …)
Tim: Then I’ll try it on a horse first, Rolf…

Tim 12: Spiritual home in Pamplona. (Mine is the grass and gutter opposite Txoko…my first fiesta home!):
Rolf 12: Down by the River Arga, camping with the gitanos.

Tim 13: Favourite building in Pamplona. (Could be that bar/restaurant again)
Rolf 13: La Casa Consistorial.

 

 

I love this shot. A capea, the bull charging out...and loads of people looking very dodgily unsafe (is that a phrase? It is now...) standing up and hanging off some wobbly looking ladders that actually look like antiques. But, keep calm and carry on, spectators, because just out of camera shot is our torero, Rolf, El Niño de la Caseta!
I love this shot. A capea, the bull charging out…and loads of people looking very dodgily unsafe (is that a phrase? It is now…) standing up and hanging off some wobbly looking ladders that actually look like antiques. But, keep calm and carry on, spectators, because just out of camera shot is our torero, Rolf, El Niño de la Caseta!

 

Rolf in 'traje corto,' the clothing used in capeas.
Rolf in ‘traje corto,’ the clothing used in capeas.

Tim 14: Best view in Pamplona:
Rolf 14: From the wall, approximately halfway between the Caballo Blanco and the area where the Lost Peña Vodka Party is held. Tim – Si, tio Rolfo, I’m with you there.)

Tim 15: Favourite open space.
Rolf 15: Plaza de Los Fueros. Tim: When I asked Rolf ‘why’ there, this is what he wrote.)
Rolf: Por las cojonudas actuaciones de los Dantzaris una vez por feria. What they perform are the timeless, ancient, Navarran – AND Basque – almost acrobatic dances! If one looks at the bodies of the guys, one understands that there is a LOT of physical exercise behind their Arte! – Amazingly, although I’ve seen this sort of thing elsewhere of course, I have never popped up to the Pl. de Los Fueros during Fiesta to see them…but rest assured Uncle Rolf…now I shall!)

Tim 16: If you could travel through time to Pamplona’s past…what era or year would you travel to?
Rolf 16: The middle of the 1920’s, when Hemingway got to know it!
Tim – Si señor! And I’ve already been there, once-upon-a-time…)

Tim 17: Most interesting or favourite shop?
Rolf 17: The little shop on C/del Pozo Blanco, to the right of Rest. Amostegui, where one can buy all sizes and fashions of txapelas and the original hand made alpargatas and also fajas. Tim – You dedicated follower of fashion, you…)

Tim 18: Favourite Pamplona landmark?
Rolf 18: When arriving by car, on the old two lane road from Donostia, the road goes up hill after the railway station and in a curve you see a bit of the old wall that hasn’t been removed – then you know that after the next curve on top of the hill, you will have arrived – YOU ARE IN PAMPLONA!
Tim – Yes! I’ve actually written about arriving in Pamplona, driving along that road before…and when I cross under, and through, the ‘Portal Nuevo’…that’s it…I’m in!)

San Fermin 1969 with first wife Babz. Okay, that’s all the Q’s for now.
San Fermin 1969 with first wife Babz.

Tim 19: ‘One more thing…’ (Write anything that springs to mind…if anything does!

Tim: 20: ‘Not a lot of people know that!’ (Similar to above, I’m just experimenting with this last bit, to give ‘the guest’ a chance to write something in his/her own voice.)
Rolf – 19 and 20: ‘One More Thing.’ Scenario: THE FISH JACKET. I wake up, having slept on my arms on a café table (THE TRADITIONAL WEE NAP, FOR CHRISSAKE!). It’s bloody hot, the sun shines awkwardly into my eyes and I try remember who I am and what I am doing on a café table. My black jacket is on the floor between my feet, my travelling bag, by my side, there are some people at my table, I can’t see a thing because of the sun and a MAGNIFICENT hangover, when I recoil for some strange, pink object approaching my face and I hear a deep, male, bass voice say: “THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED, BUDDY”, and, finally, I see a hand holding a glass with some pink liquid and ice cubes. I grab, trembling, the glass and taste the contents – aaaaaaaaaaaaah, sweet, cold and good, I empty it in 2-3 gulps and sit up in my chair, ready to take in the new day!
Tim: If you want some more, with a fiesta cocktail of Welles, Hemingway, Gardener, Ordóñez, Carney…and of course…fish!…then read on here.

 

Pamplona Royalty. The Duke and The Duchess, in the city that never sleeps and where the dancing never stops
Pamplona Royalty. The Duke and The Duchess, in the city that never sleeps and where the dancing never stops

Tim 21:‘A secret.’ (Yup, again, similar to the first two…still just experimenting…)
Rolf 21: A secret. A VERY hot afternoon in 1962, my future wife and I are sitting at the terrace of Bar Eslava at the Plaza del Castillo. That summer temperature reached 40° Celsius during 2-3 afternoons. Anyway, back to the Eslava. I saw some other guys taking off their shirts, and so did I. Wonderful relief in the heat!
Tim: There’s more, including how to win a free day’s (and night, the full 24 hours!) accommodation during Fiesta. Just click here.)

Tim 22: Favourite Spanish expression, motto, phrase, words of wisdom…or even what you’d like on your Pamplona Plaque!

Rolf 22: ‘¡Los Años No Perdonan!’
Tim: I had this down as ‘The passing years don’t forgive!’ or, as in ‘getting on a bit’ ‘Time Will Tell!’ But no! Rolf told me it means… GETTING OLD SUCKS!)Rolf: On my tombstone I would like the old family joke (in German):
VON ESSEN GEBOREN,
VON TRINKEN GESTORBEN!
It’s hard to decide who’s better dressed. With the torero El Juli.
It’s hard to decide who’s better dressed. With the torero El Juli.

Tim: And finally, but briefly… A San Ferscene-ario: What would be your perfect 24 Hours of Fiesta, starting any time of the day or night, but ending 24 hours later.
Rolf: My favourite 24 hrs of Fiesta start at 07.00, when I go to the REDIN to have coffee and Patxarán watching the encierro on their TV. At 08.15 to the Txoko for Kaikú y coñac with the ‘guys’. At 09.00 to La Raspa on C/Merced for el almuerzo de los corredores and improvised jotas from whoever appears of the joteros.

At 12.00 Paseo de Sarasate for a concert of jotas. 14.00 El vermú at the Fitero. 14.30 el apartado. 15.30-17.30 lunch at the Europa. 17.40 quick drink at the Windsor. 18.00 to the bullring. 18.30-21.00 bullfight. 21.30 Al Capone. 23.00 dinner at the Savoy. 01.00 Windsor. 03.00-06.30 all the bars on C/Jarauta. 06.30 catching up with La Pamplonesa at la Plaza Consistorial. 06.30-07.00 Dancing along the streets with the band to the music of their Dianas. My 24 hours are complete.

Tim: And probably, Rolf, 24 of the most perfect but exhausting hours of fiesta anyone could have. Fantástico!

The King and He. Pamplona Royalty with the King  of Spain. Readers, for the full story on THIS amazing photo, please click on the link here
The King and He. Pamplona Royalty with the King 
of Spain. Readers, for the full story on THIS amazing photo, please click on the link here

Muchas gracias eta mil esker Rolfo, maestro, torero, fiestero y golfo. What I love about this is that I’ve learnt a lot about some books, films, music and just general ‘stuff’ that I never knew about…and hopefully, as I choose more ‘Fiesta Drifters’ I’ll learn a whole fiesta-full more! Plus, I just love hearing other people’s Sanfer-stories… and Rolf has over half a century’s worth of them.

So that, folks, brings a fitting end to this first ever Fiesta Drifter. Again, my humble thanks and huge gratitude have to go to Rolf, who through a fair amount of difficulty and hassle, along with having to deal with my computing numbnuttery, managed to put together a wonderful drift through a life of Fiesta.

As I mentioned, there is so, so much more to read, really this morsel is just one pintxo on a bar top laden with a multi-coloured rainbow platter of them. Please, please dip in and click on the links to read more about some great adventures Rolfo El Golfo had along the way.

Next time, the Fiesta Drifter might well be Joe Distler… though if he reads what I’ve written above, he might just change his mind…

And finally, in place of the occasional video I sometimes use to end these pieces, a photo from Rolf’s collection. For those of us that know, the three figures are fairly ease to name…but where in Pamplona are they? And no, after three guesses I still didn’t get it… Sanfermineros… ¡Ya falta menos!

Cano, Hemingway and Quintana together in Pamplona…but where in that City Without Equal are they?!
Cano, Hemingway and Quintana together in Pamplona…but where in that City Without Equal are they?!
Citroen Cactus y el encierro de Sanfermin

The Citroen Cactus is inspired by the Sanfermin Bullrunning

There is a good chance that you have already seen this TV commercial spot as it has made a reappearance just lately on TV. This video of the Citroen Cactus was first made more than a year ago by the Havas publicity company under the slogan “Efecto Made in Spain”. This TV commercial features a vehicle which is made in Spain and it shows how the different owners of this car model from around the world also acquire certain Spanish cultural values at the same time as they acquire the new car. The video advertisement has been made with great care and creativity and it reaches its maximum feature when the owner of this new car model finds his road blocked by a polar reindeer in the middle of a wooded trail and the car must come to a halt. The driver gets out of the car wearing a red necktie just like the Sanfermin runners and he entices the animal as if he was taking part in the running of the bulls in Pamplona and in this way he gets the reindeer to move off out of the way.

Citroen Cactus y el encierro de Sanfermin

Some cool style is shown by this “runner” in order to get the reindeer to move out of the way so that the car can continue its journey.

On Twitter, Javi Villaverde, wrote us to ask us to comment on this TV commercial spot as he feels it is quite well made and he is surprised that it has not raised more comment in the media outlets. Well, we think he is absolutely right; the fact isthe advert is very well done and its wink to the Sanfermin Running of the bulls is perhaps its very best moment of all. From the comments that we have seen on the video that Citroen produced at the time of the first showings of this commercial, it seems a lot of viewers liked the advert and they particularly praised the “Sanfermin” scene. It has to be said that there were also some negative comments stating that it showed a stereotyped image of Spanish culture with clichédimages like the siesta, the paella and Sanfermin. The creative team obviously intentionally played with these clichéd images of Spain, but within a humorous context, which is also an important characteristic of life in Spain.

Havas aimed to decontextualize typical Spanish customs which are of course, not so typical in Germany (Siesta), Singapore (Paella) or Finland (Bullrunning) and which would provoke surprise and admiration. The agency prepared a good launching campaign and a follow-up which worked very well and which can be followed on Twitter or Facebook at the has tag #efectomadeinspain.

300.000 Citroen vehicles for 60 countries

At present, several models of the Citroen vehicle range are currently manufactured in Madrid or in Vigo –namely the Citroën C4 Cactus, C4 Picasso, Grand C4 Picasso, Berlingo, its Electric Berlingo and the C-Elysée. In 2015, 300.000 vehicles from this trademark were manufactured and they were sold in some 60 countries all over the world.