Bullfight, the corrida

The corrida or bullfight during San Fermin is very different to bullfights in any other big bullring in Spain or anywhere else. First of all, because it’s organised by the “Casa de Misericordia” or “Meca” (Old-Folks Home) and the profits go towards the upkeep of this charitable institution. This philanthropic end makes it somewhat easier to pay the expensive prices. Additionally, the bullfight is a continuation of the pandemonium which is going on in the street during these festival days. It is just another platform for getting on with the basic function of the “fiesta”, which is to have a hell of a good time and to eat and drink over the top. For many people, the start of the bullfights is the start of the day (the bullfights start at 6.30 in the afternoon!).

Feria del Toro 2022

5 de julio 20.00 Novillada. Plaza de toros. Jorge Martínez, Isaac Fonseca y Álvaro Alarcón con toros de Pincha.
6 de julio 18:30 Corrida de rejones Plaza de Toros. Leonardo Hernández, Roberto Armendáriz Y Guillermo Hermoso De Mendoza con toros de El Capea.
7 de julio 18:30 Primera corrida. Plaza de Toros.  Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza, Morante de la Puebla, El Juli Y Andrés Roca Rey con toros de Núñez del Culvillo y El Capea (rejones).
8 de julio 18:30 Segunda corrida. Plaza de Toros. Daniel Luque, José Garrido Y Álvaro Lorenzo con toros de Fuente Ymbro.
9 de julio 18:30 Tercera corrida Plaza de Toros. Joselito Adame, Rubén Pinar Y Javier Cortés con toros de D. José Escolar Gil.
10 de julio 18:30 Cuarta corrida. Plaza de Toros. Rafaelillo, Manuel Escribano Y Leo Valadez con toros de La Palmosilla.
11 de julio 18:30 Quinta corrida. Plaza de Toros. Juan Leal, Román Y Jesús Enrique Colombo con toros de Hros. de D. José Cebada Gago.
12 de julio 18:30 Sexta corrida. Plaza de Toros. Diego Urdiales, Alejandro Talavante Y Ginés Marín con toros de Jandilla.
13 de julio 18:30 Séptima corrida. Plaza de Toros. Miguel Ángel Perera, Paco Ureña Y Andrés Roca Rey con toros de D. Victoriano del Río Cortés.
14 de julio 18:30 Octava corrida. Plaza de Toros. Antonio Ferrera (sobresalientes: Álvaro de la Calle Y Jeremy Banti) con toros de Miura.

Sun & Shade

In most Bullrings there are marked differences between the seating in the shade and the seating under the hot sun. A different way of viewing the spectacle and not only in the physical sense. This difference is particularly true of the Pamplona bullring during Sanfermin. In most Bullrings there are marked differences between the seating in the shade and the seating under the hot sun. A different way of viewing the spectacle and not only in the physical sense. This difference is particularly true of the Pamplona bullring during Sanfermin.

Seats in the shade are found in the sections 1, 2, and 3. Sections 4 and 7 share both sun and shade depending on the hour. Here, where the public are not roasted by the strong sun, prices for these seats are the most expensive and the public is better behaved. If your intention is to watch the bulls with genuine interest, get a seat on this side. Here, you can watch the bulls in peace without suffering any distractions. The real fans of the bullfights are found in these seats. Make sure you arrive on time- before 6.30 when the first fight starts. Once the bull is in the ring, it is not permitted to allow late-arrivals to take their seats until that bull is killed.

Bullfights Tickets July

It is also a good idea to hire out a cushion to sit on. You can find them at some small stalls inside the stadium. Seats in the shade are found in the sections 1, 2, and 3. Sections 4 and 7 share both sun and shade depending on the hour. Here, where the public are not roasted by the strong sun, prices for these seats are the most expensive and the public is better behaved. If your intention is to watch the bulls with genuine interest, get a seat on this side. Here, you can watch the bulls in peace without suffering any distractions. The real fans of the bullfights are found in these seats. Make sure you arrive on time- before 6.30 when the first fight starts. Once the bull is in the ring, it is not permitted to allow late-arrivals to take their seats until that bull is killed. It is also a good idea to hire out a cushion to sit on. You can find them at some small stalls inside the stadium.

The seating in the sun is in sections 5 and 6 and in the upper seating at 10 and 12. Here is where the “Peñas” gather, under the fierce heat of the merciless sun. The party atmosphere is in full swing here and watching the bulls fight could be purely incidental for some of the crowd. (Some would say purely accidental!) The party atmosphere means that eating drinking and singing to your hearts’ content comes first and foremost.

The only problem is the limited number of tickets. But that is something you can read about in the later sections. So, even if you have no interest in bullfighting and even have some moral objections to it, you can safely sit among all the pandemonium on this side and scarcely be aware that there is a bullfight going on.

Corrida de Sanfermin en Sol

© Maite H. Mateo 

How to get tickets

Trying to get tickets for the daily bullfights is a continuous headache, not only for the foreigners, but also for the local people. The following information will maybe help you. The Bullring is divided into three tiers. There is the “Tendido” which is the section closest to the arena, There is the “Grada” or Terrace, which is the middle section, and there is the “Andanada”, which is the upper section. Each of these three tiers rings round the whole stadium which is further divided into a “sun” half and a “shade” half.

The cheapest seating is found on the upper tier. This is where the “Peñas” gather on the “sunny side of the ring. The terrace is more expensive but also more peaceful, even on the “sunny” side. The “tendido” is the most expensive section of the ring. Here, the real fans tend to sit, as far away as possible from the “frivolous attitudes” of the “Peñas” which have been already described before.

Bullfights Tickets July

Official distribution of tickets

Most of the seats in the bullring belong to members who pay an annual fee and who automatically receive their tickets each year to cover the seven consecutive days of bullfights. This membership is automatically renewed each year and most of them pass from father to son so that even for the local people there is a waiting-list that practically only opens on the death of a member.

“The Peñas” also have lifelong membership which allows them to receive tickets in bulk so that, for example, the seating that they occupy on the sunny side of the ring is totally booked out by them each year. Only 10% of the total tickets are officially on sale – and this happens only because they are legally required to do so. This 10% of tickets are sold the day before each bullfight at special box offices just in front of the bullring and which open at nine o´clock in the evening.

So, in theory, if you are prepared to queue up, you can get tickets in this way. In fact, what tends to happen is, the black marketeers tend to control the queue to a great extent. They take up position hours before the box-office opens and buy up a large portion of these entrance tickets so that they can resell them at a higher price.

Only four tickets per person are issued, but even this doesn´t usually hinder the black marketeers, as they employ friends and relations to control the queue and to buy up as many tickets as they can. The reality is that someone, after spending a lot of time queueing up, can find that the sold-out sign is put up before he even gets to the window. You can find more information about the official distribution of tickets in the Feria del Toro website or in shop.sanfermin.com.


© Javier Martínez de la Puente 

Black market tickets

What´s the answer ? Perhaps, the easiest thing to do is, to forget your pride and pay up, even if you have to pay nearly double. This practise is illegal of course, but not very strictly enforced. And, if it were, would only affect the seller, not the buyer. So there is nothing to worry about in that sense.

These ticket touts can be found all round the perifery of the bullring from the morning of the bullfight and right up to the last moment in the afternoon just before the bullfights begin. They are usually collected round the end of Estafeta Street and the corral which leads into the ring.

If you decide to buy one of these tickets, first make sure you know what kind of seating you want, so that you can be clear about what you want to buy. Then look for your tout. They tend to be an unmistakable class of person, whatever part of the world you live in, and to ensure we are being politically correct people, we won´t go into details here. There isn´t much point either in hustling from one to the other. Put one of those puzzled looks on your face as if you are looking for something, and you will soon be approached by one of them. (having at least a smattering of Spanish would be a help here – this class of person doesn´t usually tend to excel in languages!).

Advises for buying black market tickets

-It´s also useful to be up on the current price of these tickets. Prices can vary highly from day to day. They are a good deal more expensive at weekends when there is a large influx of people. The popularity of the different bullfighters is also another important factor. Check out which bullfighters are on the programme for that particular day. With a bit of luck a mid-week ticket should be quite a bit cheaper than a week-end ticket. It´s difficult to say just how much you would have to pay. You can expect to have to pay at least the double without taking into consideration the extra factors such as week-end tickets, special demands, particular bull-fighters, etc.

The official price is stamped on each ticket so check it before you make an offer to the tout. You will also see the number of the entrance door on the ticket, as well as the section number and the seat number. You can enter the stadium through any of the gates, but there is a check at the entrance to your section and this is when it is necessary to have your ticket to be allowed through.

Check the date on the ticket. (You could run the risk of being offered an unsold ticket from the previous day´s fight, which is now totally valueless.)
-You can bargain with the tout (in fact, if you are a foreigner, he will be particularily hard at bargaining with you.) and keep in mind the question of whether your seat is in the sun or in the shade – as we have pointed out earlier, a seat in the shade is considerably more valuable.
Another important factor is the time that you buy the ticket. The closer it is to the opening of the bull-fight (6.30 in the afternoon), the cheaper the value of the ticket since the tout will be desperate to get rid of the ticket before it becomes too late to sell it. If you risk waiting till the last moment, there is a good chance to getting the ticket at it´s face value. But if you wait too long, you run the risk of missing the first bull. (late arrivals will only be admitted after each bull is killed). There is an added risk if you have a ticket among the “Peñas”- even though your seat is numbered, someone may already be sitting on it (perhaps because some friends are there) and it may be difficult to move them.

Unused tickets

There is another source for available tickets, a good deal less “professional” than the ticket touts. Not everybody wants to go every day to see each bullfight, even though they have their member´s ticket to do so. Particularily among the “Peñas” some of the people need to take a day off from the hectic pace now and again. You may see a group heading for the ring and they often have an extra ticket or two when one of their friends drop out at the last moment. If someone asks them for one of these unused tickets then they will usually sell it at face value. It´s all a matter of keeping your eyes open and watching for them as these friends often arrange to meet up somewhere close to the ring. And then you have to be lucky enough to be the first to ask them for a ticket.

This method is employed by the local people and it usually works more than you might expect. It´s a question of hustling from group to group at the last moment. A good hustling place tends to be in Amaya street just in front of the bullring.

If it´s any consolation, the bullfights are usually even more enjoyable when you have hassle for the tickets in this way.

Corrida en Sol

© Maite H. Mateo 

Unforgettable at sun

Even if it is not necessary to be a member to sit with them, most of the sunny side of the ring is booked out and it is very difficult to get a place. This whole side of the Bullring is pure spectacle and pandemonium. Even if it is not necessary to be a member to sit with them, most of the sunny side of the ring is booked out and it is very difficult to get a place. This whole side of the Bullring is pure spectacle and pandemonium.

Once you have succeeded in getting a ticket remember to arrive in good time to take your seat. You should try to get there by six o`clock. If you are late you may find that someone has occupied your seat and it may be difficult to move them. Arriving at the last moment could mean that you are confronted with a packed crowd that makes it physically impossible for you to reach your seat. You might be left standing at the back with little or no comfort.

© Victoriano Izquierdo
© Victoriano Izquierdo

The bullfight on this side is usually hot and dirty. Come well prepared.Take a straw hat – the July sun can sometimes fry your scalp. Sunglasses might be a good idea too. The “Peñas” will be wearing their distinctive-coloured smocks so that, should any kind of “flour fights” start, they don´t worry about getting dirtied. Better to wear your oldest clothes, or, if you value your clothes,bring a towel or somesuch thing to protect you from any “flying objects” which may be thrown in good-natured fun, but which will leave a dirty stain should they find their target. You will notice that the locals on this side of the ring will wear any old thing to the fights, sometimes just to be funny, but believe me, they are also thinking of the muck and grime that tends to proliferate there.

A cushion to put under you is not a bad idea either, even if it is only useful for the first minutes. The concrete seating will have already taken a battering from the previous day´s fight and there also tends to be a lot of spilled wine floating around. These can be hired out just inside the stadium for a modicum sum. So, keep your good gear for the night scene and you won´t have to regret any “accidents” that could take place when the wine, sangría, etc, overspills both inside and outside its owners.

Neither is it a good idea to take cameras, something which visitors tend to do. They could run the risk of getting badly stained by the flowing wine or “kalimotxo” (a mixture of red wine and coke) which are being abundantly consumed to allay the fierce heat of the sun. Anything valuable is best left somewhere in a safe place.

Eating and Drinking at the bullring is one of the most attractive aspects (Some would say the most attractive) of the whole show. The drinking usually commences pretty early on. More likely than not the fierce heat of the afternoon sun will be beating mercilessly down on the sunny side of the ring. Sangria tends to be the most popular drink, which, funnily enough, is hardly ever drunk in Pamplona during the rest of the year.

It´s understandable that foreign visitors go away from the Fiesta thinking that it is our national drink, but nothing could be further from the truth. Rigid protocol dictates that, after the third bull has been killed, it is time to open the lunchboxes. Many people meet up with their friends in the passageways under the stadium to share their meal, which means that there is usually more seating space available on the terraces.

The lunchboxes can hold anything from a breadroll sandwich to a full three course meal depending on the taste of each person. Some people even bring coffee and liqueurs to finish off their meal in style. (So you can understand why some people don´t tend to return to their seats to watch the remainder of the bullfight). On the way to the stadium you will see all kinds of people proudly bearing all kinds of opulent lunchboxes. (Here is one of moments when a little ostentatiousness is acceptable). For many people this will be their main meal of the day.

Bullfights Tickets July

A sense of wellbeing and camaradie abounds at the bullfight and there is usually an opulent amount of sharing out of food going on with the people round you, be they friends or strangers. Here, you have the chance to taste all sorts of popular food from the Navarra region. The people understand that the foreign visitor is not “up” on the protocol on this type of occassion and they are particularly generous at sharing their food with any foreigners that are sitting near them. This eating and drinking tends to build up to a climax all through the second part of the bullfight and the spirits of the spectactors rise correspondingly. There is no point in taking home leftovers so these leftovers often start getting flung round in all directions as some people seem to feel a need to “practise” their volleyball skills. So, remember to take some victuals and beverages with you to the bullfight.

© Maite H. Mateo
© Maite H. Mateo

Later, as soon as the bull-fight finishes and the crowd leave, an assorted group of scavangers, made up of all kinds of “underground” types, be they “punkis” or whatever, tend to scour the terraces for the suculent leftovers. So, if you are an open, tolerant and fun-loving type, you will probably have realized by now that this could be just the kind of thing you would enjoy. If it doesn´t sound much like your kind of fun, then give it a miss. There are plenty of other things going on at the same time in Pamplona that could be more in your line.

When the last bull has been killed and dragged from the ring, the “Peñas” and a large part of the crowd pile down into the ring and gather in disordered groups under the different banners ready to flow out through the main gate behind their raoucous brass bands.


Andanada en sol en pleno gozo sanferminero. © Maite H. Mateo 

The layout of the bullring

The Pamplona bullring is the third largest in the world and it is packed out for each day of the Sanfermines. Its management is run by the Casa Misericordia de Pamplona – a charitable institution and this organization regulates and controls all aspects of the bullfights and shows held there.

While there are a total of 19,721 seats in the bullring only 1,950 of these are put up for sale to the general public the day before the bullfight takes place. The ticket offices at the bullring usually open at 20.30 pm on the eve of the bullfight. These tickets are exclusively for the highest tier of the bullring known as the ANDANADA – the grandstand section of the bullring and, as such, they are the cheapest tickets available. Entries for the regoneo – the bullfights on horseback and for the novillada young bulls events are handled in a different way. (These take place on the two days before the classic bullfights open on the 7th of July).

The vast majority of the tickets for the bullfights are season-tickets which are renewed each year by the season ticket -holders during the final days of June. The season-ticket holder is then able to do as he pleases with his ticket and so these tickets can be sold in the street on those days that the owner decides that he will not go to the bullfight.

How to enter to the bullring

While there are designated entrance gates, it is not particularly important to use any special one, as inside, the whole ring has circular passageways which connect the whole ring. Gates are indicated by letters from A to G and there is no Gate F as it was eliminated with the last piece of rehabilitation work carried out on the bullring in 2005. There also exists a main gate to the bullring as well as a “patio de caballos” gate which is used by the ringside employees and the back-up team of each of the bullfighters for their different functions. In any case, if we follow the indications written on the entry ticket we will get more immediate access to our seat. Gate A is found nearest to the side where the “patio de caballos” lies and Gate G is at the opposite side facing towards the Media Luna Park and near to the side of the bullpens.

From the outside the different seating areas can be distinguished and we need to recognize these if we want to find our correct place. The tendido or front rows of seats are found at ground level and closest to the arena. Behind them there is the grada or stand area and above that, the andanada or grandstand area. This section was added when Rafael Moneo, the famous architect from Tudela, renovated the bullring some years ago.

The original design of the bullring is from the architect Francisco Urkola, who used the same outline as he had earlier used for the Monumental Bullring in Seville. Reinforced concrete was used along with an iron structure and as, at that time people still distrusted the strength of the concrete, the amount of iron used is higher than that of cement. For this reason the later amplification of the bullring was easily supported by the original structure. Safety is guaranteed for all the public who attend shows held inside the ring. From the outside the different seating areas can be distinguished and we need to recognize these if we want to find our correct place.

Seating layout

To know where you can find your seat to enjoy the bullfight, a detailed description of the seating arrangements is outlined as follows. The bullring is divided into three different layers of seating: tendido – the front row seating, grada – the stand seating and andanada, the grandstand seating. Each section of seating is respectively further away from the arena and with less comfortable seating. However, the arena can be adequately viewed from all three sections. .

Tendido – Front row seating

From the ringside fencing the front rows reach back to the tabloncillo which is the end row of the tendido section. This the best way of seeing the bullfights as you are very close to the action. It is important to bear in mind that in Pamplona there are nine rows of seating and the number of each row can be easily read from the ring as it is painted on the ringside barriers.

The best places in the Pamplona bullring are in the reserved seating area and rows, 1, 2, 3. The reserved seating area is included in these front rows but it is the area facing the bullpens and access is gained from the main gate and gates D and C. This area includes the reserved seats which are made of wicker instead of cement and these have cushions and stretch from the ringside up ten rows. This area is even more comfortable than the president’s box and it is obviously one of the most expensive locations in the bullring.

This area also include the preference barrier which is the first of the rows with seating. You can lean your arms on the barrier which divides the narrow passageway which circles round the ring behind the main barrier which separates the arena from the seated public. Thus, you get a close view of the bullfighters and their back-up personnel as they wait to enter or leave the arena. Only those directly opposite the bullpen belong to preference, the rest of the row encircling the ring is simply the first row behind the circular barrier. This area also include the preference barrier which is the first of the rows with seating.


The row behind this front row is known as the contrabarrera or the second row of front seats. And the next row behind that is also known as the second contrabarrera. Then comes a transit passageway to facilitate access to seating. So, this first visible section of three front rows, are respectively known as the barrera, the contrabarrera and the second contrabarrera. The front row on the other side of the transit passageway is known as the delantera as this is the front row of a new section of seating. The tabloncillo -the last row of seats, usually has a place to rest one’s back. But in the rehabilitation work carried out in 1952 this was taken out to make room for two new rows of seating. Now, only in this second section of front row seats do you find seating with this qualification. They are particularly comfortable seats and located in the shade.

In addition, in the tendero we can find other seating known as sobrepuerta and sobrepreferencia; the former look over the ringside entrance gate and the latter overlook the front row of the tendido seating. In the first level there are various places to rent cushions at a cost of one euro and which is refunded at the end of the afternoon – although in fact, nearly everyone throws the cushions into the bullring irrespectively of whether the last bullfight of the day has been a good one or a bad one.

Grada – Stands seating

This second layer of seating includes the presidential box seating and the stands. Entrance is gained through the same gates but, unlike the front row areas which are separated by rows, this area is divided into eight sections. Access is gained by going up one floor when you enter the bullring and then pass through one of the gateways which give access to the stand area. At each gateway there is a ticket-collector who checks the ticket. There are also some ushers in attendance to indicate the exact place that you seat can be found. There are less rows than in either the front row area or the grandstand area.

The first row is at the railings

All the perimeter of the bullring has seating between the railings and the columns, in groups of eight or nine and this is known as barrandilla en grada -the stand railing area. This is a good spot to watch the bullfights and if it rains, you won’t get wet here. Behind there are five more rows in the stand secion.

Bear in mind that you must go up two floors to get to the grandstand area and one floor to get to the stand area using the same stairway. To exit there are additional special areas created in order to facilitate rapid exit at the zone of the Peñas and the patio de caballos gateway. At this level there is a preference area which includes the presidential box area and some entrance tickets can be purchased for this area. The entrance gate can be found between the box office and the main entrance to the bullring.

Andanada – Grandstand seating

The grandstand is the highest part of the bullring. And it holds the largest number of seats and here is where the majority of tickets on sale are located. The slope is steeper than in the stand or front row area and there are fifteen rows of seats. Just as in the stand area, there are also grandstand railings -barandillas en la andanada and these are the same shape and size as those of the stand area as they are of the very same type. In the renovation of the ring, the columns were taken out in this area because the roof was extended and this allows for a better view of the arena.

Behind the railings lies the first row of seating. Rows 1 and 2 are separated by a transit passageway. Row 1 is below and touching the railings. Row 2 is behind the transit passageway. One of the steps here is not for seating and where those seated in row 2 can rest their feet. Many people confuse this step area with Row 1 but in fact, it is kept clear to facilitate transit.

The biggest problem with this area is to find the row number and the seat number. The grandstand is divided into sections and these are painted on the rear wall and which can be easily read. Once the section has been located, it should be kept in mind that the section is divided by flights of steps and these have a railing painted in red which is reasonably visible and the stairway is painted in yellow. It should also be remembered that due to the greater length of the shape of the bullring, the higher you go, the more seating there is.

The peñas and the rest

In the Pamplona bullring the division between the sunny side and the shaded side does not make that much sense. A more pertinent division is that between the area of the Peñas and the rest of the public. And it must be said that the atmosphere among the Peñas is quite singular and unique. Anyone who has not seen a bullfight from the area of the Peñas cannot say that they have lived the Sanfermines totally.

If someone wants to be in the area of the Peñas, then that area is to be found above the bullpens and belongs to part of the section 5 of the front rows area, all of section 6 and a part of 7. The Peñas are also in part of the andanada grandstand, concretely in sections 11, 12 and 13. They also have sections 5 and 7 of the grada or stand area.

These divisions are not necessarily strictly observed by the Peñas but they do exist. These divisions are not necessarily strictly observed by the Peñas but they do exist. Even among the Peñas there are a series of red lines to indicate the different parts. This of course is easy to see when the bullring is empty but in Sanfermin, the friendly ambience will also help us find the seats without much problem.

In any case, there are many anecdotes and stories about good times which started for people who got their seating wrong and still had a great time. Even among the Peñas there are a series of red lines to indicate the different parts. This of course is easy to see when the bullring is empty but in Sanfermin, the friendly ambience will also help us find the seats without much problem. In any case, there are many anecdotes and stories about good times which started for people who got their seating wrong and still had a great time.

The apartado

The “Apartado” – this is where some of the personalities and well-known people who visit Pamplona for the fiestas, like to be seen. This is where the “draw” for the bulls is made and allocated to the three different bullfighters who will fight in the same afternoon.

But perhaps the most important thing is to see and be seen as it is really more of a social affair than anything else. It is necessary to pay for a ticket to enter this section of the bullring. One o´clock in the afternoon is an incredibly early hour of the day if you have been on the town all night. And this is one of the most inconvenient things about the visit to the enclosure.

This event takes place every day that there is a bullfight, which is to say, from the 6th to the 14th of July. If you are attacted to the atmosphere which surrounds the bullfighting world, it could be worth your while to make the effort to check out this daily event, even if you have had a long night of it.

To be admitted to the enclosure, you need to buy a ticket at one of the box-offices round the stadium between 10 o´clock and 1 o´clock each day from the 5th onwards. You go through an entrance of the ring which is usually reserved for the animals and keepers.

What is this?

Here, there is a kind of draw made to assign two bulls to each of the three bullfighters who will fight that same afternoon in the ring. At this point, the bulls who have been sharing a common corral since the morning run, are separated into their individual stalls. It´s a good opportunity for the real fans to size up the qualities and defects of each of the bulls. The numbers are placed in the hat of one of the stewards and drawn out for each bullfighter depending on a criteria of seniority, the oldest fighter being first. Then the bulls are put in their separate stalls.

The event attracts, not only the bullfighters, but also a lot of “important people”, local politicans, personalities, etc. which makes it one of these social occasions for the “in” people. But, in fact, a lot of perfectly ordinary people go along just to have a look. The event attracts, not only the bullfighters, but also a lot of “important people”, local politicans, personalities, etc. which makes it one of these social occasions for the “in” people. But, in fact, a lot of perfectly ordinary people go along just to have a look.

It might be of gastromonic interest for the foreign visitor to know that at the small bar, where one might like to sip a sherry or two, there is also a special snack available during these days of the Fiesta, which consists of the testicles of the bulls which have been killed in the previous afternoon´s fight. Delicious to the palate for some and a revulsion to to others!


© Maite H. Mateo 

What is a bull-fight?

A normal bullfight consists of three “tercios” and two “suertes”. In Pamplona there is an extra session which is the snack-break after the third bull. A normal bullfight is divided into three parts – first the “Varas” – where the cape is used to examine the qualities of the bull – second – the “Banderillas” – where the two assistants of the bullfighter attempt to play some darts on the bull’s back. The final part is the fight to the death of the bull. In addition, there are two “suertes” – this is the cape work from the bullfighter using two distinct capes – one with a wooden stick as a bar on the cape.

In Pamplona, after the third bull, there is the “suertes” (‘luck’) of the snack-break, which is usually something more than a snack. Here the people eat and drink heartily and little attention is paid to what is going on inside the ring.

The very first movement is when two horsemen, in all their plumed finery, suddenly burst into the middle of the ring at a gallop. They turn aside in opposite directions and gallop round the arena on each side. When their paths cross the public give a loud OOH ! to acclaim the possible collision which never happens. (Just another of those eternal little rites of San Fermin !)

Then comes the parade of the bull-fighters and their entourage, and all the other people who will have some part to play in the event such as the “picadores” on their horses and carrying their lance, the “banderilleros” who are dressed like the bull-fighters but whose function is to run at the bulls and stick darts into their backs as a preliminary to the bull-fighters work. There are others similarly dressed- the “Peones” – but whose function is simply to play with the bull with their coloured capes so that the bull-fighter can watch the way that the bull charges and turns with his horns.

The “Mulillas” also take part in the parade and these are the men and horses which will drag the body of the dead bull from the ring. After they salute the balcony of the president, permission is given for the bull-fight to begin. The same ritual which has gone on for countless years. There are three bull-fighters and two bulls for each one. The order is fixed: the first bull-fighter fights the first and fourth bull, the second one will fight the second and fifth, the third will fight the third and sixth bull.


Sombra y sol. © Maite H Mateo.  

Each bull-fight has three standard movements, called “tercios”:

The first “tercio” takes place as soon as the bull is released into the ring. The “peones” tempt the bull with their capes so that the quality of the bull charges can be appreciated. They will lead him over different sections of the ring so that his reactions can be carefully noted by the bull-fighter. Then the “Picador” appears with his horse and lance.

He will pierce the back of the bull with his steel lance to weaken it and to tame some of his fierce energy. This is known as making a “puya” and is not popular with the crowd as they don’t want the animal to be made too weak. On the other hand, the bull-fighter does want him to be weakened. The bull-fighter then plays with the bull with a yellow cape to learn more about the way it charges and turns.

The second “tercio” begins when the “banderilleros” take up their running position with a dart in each hand and they must run at the bull and stick these large darts, with a small steel hook at the end, into the back of the bull. There are usually three of these men who act in quick succession making a total of six darts in all.

The third “tercio” is when the bull-fighter uses his red and yellow cape held by a wooden sword. He carries out several different movements where he tries to dominate the bull. When the bull is sufficiently tired, he changes the wooden sword for a steel one and with this sword he will give the final “estocada” where he must bury the sword in a small area of the animal’s back to kill him.

Once the bull is dead, the president of the arena decides if he will concede any award to the bull-fighter. If he has done everything well, the public acclaim him and appeal for an award (This could be one ear, two ears, two ears and the tail, depending on how well he has done everything). If the bull-fighter has been bad, the crowd will boo and hiss and the luckless bull-fighter will have to wait for another better day.

And the crowd await the second bull and hope for a better fight. And that’s the ritual for all six bulls. And after that the show is over for another day.

Feria del Toro 2019 Bullfighters

Viernes 5 de julio 2019, a las 20:00

Novillos de Ganadería de Pincha de Lodosa (Navarra), para los novilleros:
Francisco de Manuel, Antonio Grande y Diego San Román

Sábado 6 de julio 2019

Toros de El Capea, de San Pelayo de Guareña (Salamanca), para los caballeros rejoneadores:
Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza, Leonardo Hernández y Roberto Armendáriz.

Domingo 7 de julio 2019

Toros de Puerto de San Lorenzo, de Tamames (Salamanca) para los matadores:
Emilio de Justo, Alberto López Simón y Ginés Marín.

Lunes 8 de julio 2019

Toros de Cebada Gago, de Medina Sidonia (Cádiz) para los matadores:
Manuel Escribano, Rubén Pinar y Juan del Álamo.

Martes 9 de julio 2019

Toros de José Escolar, de Lanzahíta (Ávila), para los matadores:
Fernando Robleño, Javier Castaño y Pepe Moral

Miércoles 10 de julio 2019

Toros de Jandilla, de Mérida (Badajoz)  para los matadores:
Diego Urdiales, Sebastián Castella y Roca Rey

Jueves 11 de julio 2019

Toros de Victoriano del Río, de Guadalix (Madrid), para los matadores:
Antonio Ferrera, Julián López “El Juli y Pablo Aguado.

Viernes 12 de julio 2019

Toros de Núñez del Cuvillo, de Vejer de la Frontera (Cádiz) para los matadores:
Miguel Ángel Perera, Cayetano y Andrés Roca Rey.

Sábado 13 de julio 2019

Toros de La Palmosilla, de Tarifa (Cádiz) para los matadores:
Román, José Garrido y Javier Marín

Domingo 14 de julio 2019

Toros de Miura, de Lora del Río (Sevilla) para los matadores:
Rafael Rubio “Rafaelillo”, Octavio Chacón y Juan Leal.



The bull that rejected the Running of the Bulls


This morning’s Running of the Bulls, with the José Escolar bull-ranch, will go down in the recent history of this event because of the bull that came out of the pen with its siblings, but after running a few hundred meters up the Santo Domingo slope, it decided to turn back round and it ran back to the pens where, surprisingly, the gates still remained opened. This bull remained in the pens and took no further part in the Running of the Bulls, which was completed by the five other bulls.

Continue reading…

Ya huele a testosterona

Me he puesto a contar cabezas en esta foto. Pero es un mareo. Calculo unas cien. Podría ser una paella con mogollón de langostinos. Sólo veo dos gambas, quizás haya alguna más, escondida. Una frunce el ceño, la otra enarca las cejas. A saber qué están pensando.

“Apesta a testosterona”, dice la rubia. “Quién me manda a mí meterme en esta pocilga”, barrunta la morena. Parecen ajenas a la escena machoman rollo ‘Braveheart’ que protagoniza este bicharraco. Un ejemplar fornido en el gimnasio y bien tatuado, como manda la moda. Quizás se estrena en el Txupinazo, porque lleva un bañador y unas estupendas deportivas de marca que dudo mucho las vuelva a calzar. Los que nos sabemos el cuento llevamos unas zapatillas viejas que luego tiramos a la basura.

Esta escena es una de tantas que pueden verse desde un balcón el día 6 de julio, poco antes de las 12 del mediodía, en la plaza del Ayuntamiento de Pamplona. Gambas y langostinos llevan el pañuelo rojo anudado en la muñeca. Es parte del ritual. El traje blanco ha pasado en pocos minutos a un rosa sangría de la barata.

Contamos las horas para el Txupinazo. Hace un calor de infierno. Huele a fiesta por todas las esquinas. Van llegando ‘guiris’ de los lugares más curiosos del planeta. Como los de esta imagen. Pamplona se prepara para el gran estallido.

Si continúa la sofoquina, las noches serán más divertidas. Nos bañaremos en cerveza y nos tiraremos por los parques a reposar la juerga. Vestidos de blanco, nos sentiremos iguales. Por unos días dará igual cuánto tienes en tu cuenta corriente, lo que debes al banco, qué cargo ocupas en la empresa, o si te acaban de despedir…

También vendrán personajes muy ‘vip’, pastosos y poderosos. Les gusta meterse entre la gente jugando al escondite. Pero a nosotros nos da igual. Aquí no hacemos ascos a nadie. En la calle poco importa quién eres, sino qué gracia tienes para bailar, con qué humor te tomas las bromas, si eres capaz de olvidarte por un rato de dónde vienes y a dónde vas.

Sanfermin hipnotiza, si te dejas llevar. La fiesta te integra en una pura anarquía. Una oportunidad de vivir una gran juerga, hacer nuevos amigos, ligar, enrollarte, flipar viendo el encierro, reír sin parar… Ah, y si te ves en la foto o encuentras a algún amigo o amiga entre este mogollón, escríbenos y nos cuentas qué gritaba el musculitos y si al fin logró volar.

We have our winner of the #OverselfieSF Competition

In order to celebrate the final calendar step leading to Sanfermin fiestas, and taking advantage of the “Red and White” night organized by the commercial association of the Old Quarter of Pamplona on Friday 5th of June, we brought Mister Testis along with us in order to let the general public try out some selfie shots with him from some new angles and unusual altitudes. The best selfie snapshot would be awarded a T-shirt from the latest Sanfermin collection created by Kukuxumusu.

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China appears on the balcony

Sebastian Stone has a smile which is pleasing to look at. His name is Latin but his slanty eyes and the tone of his skin betray his Asian background. In fact, he comes from Taiwan, China. He is repeating his second visit to Pamplona during Sanfermin fiestas. He works as a tourist guide and he acknowledges that Spain is his favorite European country. “Here the people are the nicest and the weather is the best”. He explains himself in pretty basic Spanish. With him there are another 25 Chinese who have come from many different parts of the planet, from Shanghai, from California, from Taiwan… He wished to learn about the Camino to Santiago.

“In summer it is better than being in the south of Spain.” explains Sebastian. Among his group are four elderly people, several children, some youths … his first port of call has been Pamplona. They rented a balcony in City Hall square to enjoy for the first time in their lives the magic sensations of the Running of the Bulls.

All of the group have large cell phones with them – most of them Android and made in South Korea. They can’t stop taking photos. Some of them are members of the same family. One of the ladies stands out for her bulky and large size, perhaps she measures about one meter eighty or so. She explains to her kids with a strong American accent just what is about to happen at the bullrunning event. She is from Los Angeles, California. But, without a doubt, the curious people of all are the elderly ones, three ladies and a gentleman, all looking to be over seventy years of age. They seem to have just come out of some classy Eastern movie. What a pity I have no Chinese nor they any English.

Isabel, the local guide who Works for the local Company, Destino Navarra, which lets the balconies, is encouraging them to use all the space on the balconies, but most of them stay on the same balcony, the one at the corner of Mercaderes, and they don’t budge from there. While some of them understand English, it is not easy to talk to understand them. They have a strong accent and after several attempts with the same sentence, I give up. They have some coffee, eat some buns, they chat… without making too much noise. It is hard to believe there are 25 of them in total – it seems more like a dozen people or so. They don’t raise their voices; they move gracefully, they don’t fill much space…all in sharp contrast to the street below them with its noise and rowdiness.

¿Do you like to live in Taiwan? l ask Sebastian. “It is not bad, although the country is too small, he replies. An island of 383 km long, almost stuck to China and with only about 26 million inhabitants and lots of beaches. To get there from here would take a18 hours flight with a stopover in Thailand the Portuguese called it Formosa (beautiful island). Sebastian is dressed in a rose-colored tee shirt and black jeans. None of the group have dressed themselves in the traditional red and White of Sanfermin. Tomorrow they will head on their tour with a stop at San Millán de la Cogolla in the Rioja region. I recommend them to have a look at the bulls in the gas pens, but they don’t have time. They asked me how many bulls will run in the Running of the bulls and what happens afterwards to the bulls. They are surprised to hear my short explanation.

Finally, it is 8 o’clock and the three rockets go off. All of them prepare to watch with their cell phone cameras at the ready. The herd of bulls arrive amid the crowded runner. They pass so fast that there is hardly time to enjoy the moment. Inside the sitting room of the flat there is a TV broadcasting the event. Everyone gathers there to watch the live broadcast. The Chinese seem to open their eyes wide in similar style to the Japanese cartoons. Aaaaaaah, uaaaaaaa, they exclaim in unison. It sounds like a very sweet and innocent tone… What do they really think? What do they really feel? Do they think we are crazy? They will never have seen a live fighting bull in their lives before. Will you run in the Running of the Bulls when you grow up, they ask one of the children. “Perhaps, the child replies amid smiles and giggles and wide eyes after watching the bullrunning. They all together exclaim that the child speaks perfect English.

Inicio colocación vallado Sanfermin 2014

La colocación del vallado comienza con el poste-homenaje a los fallecidos del encierro

Each year, during these dates, the commencement of the gradual placement of the Sanfermin fencing is a clear indicator that the annual fiestas are now not far off. However, this is only the second year that the placement of the first post is also a conscious homage to those runners who have suffered a fatal mishap in the event down the years. The fixing of this first post, in the square in front of City Hall close to the new Tourism Office, attracted the attention of quite a few onlookers as well as counting on the presence of the media.

The workers from the carpentry workshop Hermanos Aldaz y Remiro once again had the task of placing this unique metal poster in front of a gathering of people and the media. It only took them a minute or so to place the poster and this work will gradually continue over the following weeks as they set up the traditional fencing in readiness for the running of the bull events during Sanfermin fiestas. The complete fencing consists of some 900 posts and more than 2.600 timber boards.

The running of the barts

Polémica en la red en torno al encierro

Before Sanfermin 2014 takes off, the Encierro Round Table will meet up to review last year’s Running of the Bulls and all that happened during the 2013 Running of the Bulls. It is very likely that the over-crowding which took place on the 7th (the first bullrunning) and the pile-up crush that took place on the 13th (on the second-last day) will be reviewed and discussed. As yet, nothing is known about any new innovations in the program, but the local newspaper, Diario de Navarra published a news item in September 2013 and again two weeks ago that the possibility of limiting access to the course would be considered and they cited sources from City Hall. In addition, this same newspaper, proposed the idea of debating whether access should be controlled and this is already a heated point of contention as can be seen from some of the comments on the web page news. At the same time, another local newspaper, Diario de Noticias just this week carried out a short survey with ten of the regular runners asking whether the running of the bulls event was “unchangeable” or whether it could be improved with new regulations.

But perhaps the most contentious article which has sparked off the most heated debate on the social networks is the one published at amigosdelencierro.es and which was signed by the local  Pamplona runner, Fermín Barón (who also participated in the survey in the Diario de Noticias but not stating the same points). In his own article on the web page Barón pointed out that “It is quite curious to read how people, who only come to spend nine days of the year in Pamplona, tell us how the Running of the Bulls should be handled… No doubt they know better than ourselves about bulls, breeds, and bull-ranches, (…) …although, I honestly think… to take part in the Running of the Bulls it is not exactly necessary to know these things…that’s the way it has been all down the centuries, up to now… this is our home ground, we have been born and bred here and this is the land of our fathers and grandfathers and now of our children… so… even if the Sanfermines has become an international fiesta… it is still taking place in Pamplona, in our streets… and that should not be forgotten. It is only WE OURSELVES who have the rights to decide what measures to take about the running of the Bulls… WE ALONE… and if the running of the Bulls can only survive by restricting admittance then that is a welcome idea … Fortunately, the fiestas don’t depend on any one person or thing…the fiestas will continue, come what may…and no matter who is here or not here… the running of the bulls will continue to take place at 8.o´clock in the morning and it will go through the same streets as always… I would remind some people that tend to look down on the foreigners that many of the foreigners or “guiris” were already running in the event well before some of the so-called experts from here were even born and who come here to show us how much they know about the event… Finally… WE DEMAND RESPECT… for our customs and traditions. It is a well-known maxim that “when in Rome, do as the Romans do…” Here, the runners do not grab hold of the bulls’ horns nor indeed touch the Bulls in any way…and the bottom line is that the running of the Bulls does not have anything to do with a bullfight… The bullfights are held in the afternoon.… I have often heard it said that those who run in the running of the Bulls are like bullfighters…well, runners can think what they like, everyone is free to think of course, but that is a lie…I am not any kind of bullfighter…being a bullfighter is a whole different ball game…” (amigosdelencierro.es)

The debate is in the air, although, for the moment, only personal opinions are being expressed.

Main image from Bart (flickr)


The first press advert that used a photograph obtained with a totally digital professional photo camera

Jim Hollander is the author of this image which illustrates the first press advert that used a photograph obtained with a totally digital professional photo camera. This was in1999 and the prestigious American publicity company, Saatchi & Saatchi Rowland decided that an image of the Sanfermin fiestas and its Running of the Bulls should be used to show the new virtues of the Kodak DCS520C  to accompany its slogan for the commercial. The slogan stated “Not all cameras have the guts to obtain a snapshot like this one”, and the image was taken from the running of the bulls. Jim Hollander and the publicity executives chose this image taken in Mercaderes Street with the pack of bulls pulling up at the entrance bend to Estafeta. It was taken at Sanfermin1999.

A further rather curious detail is that, arising from the relationship of Hollander and this special Kodak, camera, the snapshot used for the official  Bullfight Poster of 2002 was also taken with this same camera and in the same year as the advert snapshot. So this poster was also the first poster with an image taken by a digital camera.

The director of the photo commercial was Frank Dattalo at Saatchi & Saatchi Rowland and the image was spread across all the most important North- American newspapers and magazines in 2000. Jim Hollander tells us that the price of these cameras at that time was around 15, 000 dollars and it was not easy to get your hands on one, even at that price. The technology was developed by Canon and Kodak and they competed against both the D1 from Nikon and the general mistrust of digital which still existed among people everywhere. This commercial was specially aimed at fighting against that mistrust. Among the anecdotes connected with Sanfermin fiestas that year, Jim Hollander relates how one of the public relations executives from Saatchi & Saatchi Rowland accompanied him to fiestas that year and that he looked very like Ricky Martin. 1999 was the year of the hit song  Livin´ la vida loca from this Puerto Rican Singer and the people in the streets would shout at them “Ricky, Ricky”… Hollander says that he is sure that the executive will remember his Sanfermin experience for the rest of his life. Nor will we ever forget, thanks to Hollander, that the first ever commercial with a digital camera came from the Running of the Bulls, when the great leap was taken to move to digital technology. After images such as these were taken by Hollander, soon after all the newspaper reporters began turning to digital cameras to cover the Running of the Bulls.