Running With Bulls

Pip Art
Pip Art
After the solemnity of Semana  Santa, the village goes a little loco on Easter Sunday as the annual Bull Run marks the start of the bullfighting season. Spaniards don’t need much of an excuse to party, and it´s been a long time since Los Reyos signalled the end of Christmas.

Three young bulls run the streets on Easter Sunday. 

Most of the village turns out to watch as the first bull is released into the corral on the edge of the village where a crowd of (mostly young) men wait in eager anticipation; dressed in red and some of the flashier ones sporting the traditional pink and yellow cape. Klaxon´s blast, people shout, the atmosphere is heavy with excited anticipation. When eventually the bull charges from his box, the men wind him up during ten minutes of face-to-face challenges. The barrier is then raised and the bull heads for the streets sending the onlookers scattering either to dive behind strategically placed safety barriers, or to climb window railings out of reach of the bull´s deadly horns.

There have been casualties and even some reported deaths over the years but ultimately it is the bull who pays the highest price. His feet and knees bleeding from where he has slipped on the tarmac, fearful eyed with saliva frothing from his gaping mouth, it is distressing to see such a magnificent beast reduced to a panting wreck.

After an hour of running the village streets, the bull is cornered and led away for slaughter. A second bull is released at midday and the final one at four o´clock in the afternoon. This last bull is often the messiest as the villagers have spent the intervening hours in the bars and are consequently sloppy, less nimble on their feet and take dangerous risks.

The almost primeval nature of this event seems in start contrast to the piety of Semana Santa, yet both are rooted in a culture where life can be harsh and emotions are never far from the surface. Andalucia is a cultural melting pot: often described as real Spain, the region is suffused with both Moorish and Gitano influences. Economically the province struggles; the terrain is unyielding, the heat relentless for many months of the year and infrastructure – until relatively recently – was poor. Cars did not appear on the mountain until the mid-seventies for heaven´s sake and people remember the arrival of electricity with alacrity.

And after all, little boys around here do not dream of becoming football stars, their sights are firmly set on the bullring.




© Pip Art

I am spending Easter in a remote village perched on the top of an Andalucían mountain in southern Spain. Holy Week – or Semana Santa – is particularly important in Catholic Spain and this little village is no exception. Throughout Spain almost everywhere from the tiniest village to the biggest city celebrate the week with religious processions through the streets. In cities like Seville these are spectacular and the litters that the brotherhood (the nasareno’s in their spooky pointed caps) carry are enormous and ornate. In this community, Semana Santa kicks off with a Borriquita procession on Palm Sunday as an expression of piety and the whole village turns out to silently shuffle down the winding streets carrying their precious cargo.

Sometimes I wish I were religious, as faith seems to offer solace in times of hardship or pain. But I cannot believe in an Almighty who turns a blind eye to the world’s suffering, let alone the atrocities that take place in the so-called name of God, whosoever that god may be.

That said, the Ten Commandments seem a reasonable set of guidelines by which to live your life. Personally I tend to believe in the goodness – or otherwise – of mankind, which I am told (if you are into labels) makes me a Humanist.

I cannot condone any religion that does not have civil rights at its core, treats women as possessions, condemns homosexuality or abuses children. I also struggle with religion’s hypocrisy; the so-called god-fearing person whose outward religious display is purely for show and are privately mean-spirited and judgemental. The woman who does not lift a finger to help her son’s wife struggling to cope with a clutch of small children, yet feels pious because every Sunday she gives a neighbour a lift to church.

Or the man who neglects his disabled father but posts “Happy Birthday Jesus” on Facebook at Christmas.

The practice of charity is defined as “the voluntary giving of help to those in need” and most organised religions value charitable acts very highly; but surely true charity begins at home?