Opinion – Normalitas: Bullfighting, Zara, pubs: Hemingway (also) was here



Ernest Hemingway is something of an inside joke between me and my Catalan lover.

According to his theory, the adventure-writer has been everywhere. But ALL.

We enter a dusty pub in a lost part of Spain and:

– Look, Susana. Hemingway was here, sitting on that stool, taking a orujo (grape and herb brandy typical of the Galicia region).

Little by little, the joke escalated.
— Hemingway was at Zara’s promotion week.
‘He went over that dirt road and spit on that cactus. Certainty.
— And tasted this slap of potato tortilla from Bar del Pollo. That’s why it’s been so famous since 1993 (it’s not just Elvis who didn’t die).

(H. was at Bar del Pollo with Rosalía, of course — and that’s why tortilla went viral)

I know, sounds like post-mortem bullying. I’m sorry, I love your books etc. But what are me and namô in the face of the Power of the Infinite? Surely, by now Ernesto will be in another part of Paradáis shrugging his shoulders, fishing for trout and sucking mojitosindifferent to warm ears.

And maybe, just maybe, because of what I’ll tell you ahead, you’ll stop chewing mint leaves for a moment to sneer at me sideways (I love that word, sideways, which reminds me of wormwood tea, the which in turn reminds me that Hemingway loves worm tea and whiskey).



The following is. Here in spain deep, we are in the midst of (((heat, very hot, someone save me))) the famous Fiestas of San Fermín.

They have taken place at least since the Middle Ages in Pamplona, ​​capital of Navarra, a neighboring province to the Basque Country and the land of the famous Rioja wines. They last eight days, from July 7th to 14th. And, in the last pre-pandemic edition, in 2019, they attracted half a million people, almost half of them foreigners – notably French (56%) and Americans (25%).

You know these parties, even if you don’t know: the most characteristic are the races (careers) of bulls.

officially called encierros since the 19th century, there has been one every day of the festival, early in the morning. Each exit brings together 2,000 to 3,000 people whose main mission is to run like crazy through squares and narrow streets with horned and frankly not-happy bulls behind them.


The ritual is like that. Rockets 1 and 2 sound in the early hours of the morning, herding the bustling crowd.

Just before 8 am, the center of Pamplona is swarming with people males (yes, the women, we are not silly, but sometimes excessively conniving, we are usually at the counters waving handkerchiefs) dressed in white with their espadrilles and red handkerchiefs around their necks.

The crowd entrusts its soul to San Fermín, the patron saint of the festival, with the chant: “We ask San Fermín, as our patron, to guide us in the encierro giving us your blessing. Long live San Fermín!!!”.

And, BOMB! The third rocket portends the animals’ imminent release, and the excitement is palpable-pulsable in blanco-y-rojo, in the decorations of the animals. balconiesin the cries of “now [viva, em euskera] San Fermin!!”.

every encierrotwelve bulls are released in total, six of which are wild or savages and six halters or tame, whose function is to guide and herd the herd.

The festival’s origins are said to date back to medieval cattle fairs. There are records of bullfights in the region since at least the time of Charles II in the 14th century.

Detail: A “runner” cannot cover all 875 meters of the bulls’ trajectory — he would die in the attempt, perhaps, or more surely he would get a good gored.

In general, the so-and-so macho focused on his rite of bullish machoteza, he chooses one of the 7 sections of the “circuit” to get in front of the bulls and run around his laife along with a small crowd. The complete journey, says the historical average, should take no more than 3:22 minutes. Which doesn’t seem like it, but it’s a long time.



Since data began to be recorded in the early 20th century, 16 people have lost their lives in the Sanfermines – the last one a 27-year-old Madrid native in 2009 with a horn buried in his neck.

Not to mention the average of 41 injured per issue.

The spectacle is amazing, and yes, there is a lot of controversy here in Spain about the abuse of animals, stressed, harassed, cornered by the maniacal human horde, and the danger of the ritual.

But that doesn’t stop the tourist attraction of the parties — and the money changers.

In the running of the bulls on the 7th (Thursday) on the occasion of the centenary of the famous Plaza de los Toros, the heart of the festival, one of the 1800 tickets available cost between 60 and 120 euros. Sold out for days, they are now worth gold at resale, reaching 300 or 400 euros each. Even the cheapest tickets, originally sold for 12 to 40 euros, could not be found for less than 100 euros on the black market.

The sanfermines attract so many people that there are people (and agencies) who rent an apartment balcony on the path where the bulls pass. They are places with privileged views, basically deluxe private cabins, a business that started to become popular like creizi around the 2010s.

For example: in the 2022 edition, a privileged place in a balcony in the Consistorial Plaza during the sucker (launch of the party’s inaugural rocket) could reach 800 to 1000 euros pax.

Those who buy such a thing are ooobviously or are very rich or, I don’t know, the BBC, as news outlets from all over the world pay to get an exclusive look at what, after all, is one of the most famous events in the world. The VIP experience, explains a local travel agent, is rounded off by steak, champagne and wine.

As for watching a bullfight from the safety of a balcony, it is possible to pay more modest amounts, from 125 to 180 euros. Some agencies do the under-12s promotion for free.

The agent argues that everyone complains about over-the-counter prices, but thinks it’s “normal” that a menu del day (complete meal, usually with starter and main course, drink and dessert) from 15 euros can go up to 40 euros during parties, or that a hotel can charge up to seven times more for a night.

ayemy Saint Firmin.


Well, back to Hemingway, the fact is that this bloody, macho, absurd atmosphere of wild fiestas and bullfighting — and this is historic, not a joke — really attracted the Nobel-prize-winning writer-journalist to Spain. Not once, but a dozen times. The last one, two years before doing the Bumba on his own head (with all due respect, because this is a very serious and sad subject).

Hemingway was a manual tauromaniac and immortalized this passion loka in works and reports, as every reader of his knows, starting in 1923, when he first came as a correspondent for the Toronto Star to cover a bull run in Madrid.

His relationship with racing and bullfighting españolas it’s legendary, controversial and, as I often do with celebs in general, duly accompanied by its thousand myths, anecdotes — and some, just a few, real stories.

Will continue…

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