When the Running of the Bulls Was So Hectic No One Noticed That Two Men Died


The festival of San Fermín, held every July in Pamplona, Spain, since the 16th century, has its origins in religious tradition, honoring a Catholic saint now nearly 2,000 years martyred. But the celebrations have become increasingly secular over the years, with round-the-clock revelry—and nostalgia for a world Ernest Hemingway so vividly painted in The Sun Also Rises—drawing visitors from around the world.

The festival’s most enduring legacy is the running of the bulls, or encierro, from the Spanish word for to corral or enclose. Held on the second day of the festival, July 7, the encierro consists of letting loose a small number of bulls in the city streets while transporting them to the bullring for bullfighting. Though it takes place during several festivals, the encierro at San Fermín is the most world-renowned.

The running of the bulls and ensuing bullfight have been the subject of criticism from…

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