Our World Heritage Site of Alcalá is gearing up to hold a “running of the bulls,” or encierro, through our walkways.
This used to be the manner in which around a dozen bulls, roughly half of them tame (mansos) and half de lidia (fighting) were taken from the corral along the town streets to the bullring.
This way, the wild bulls, as herd animals, stayed within the confines of the group and remained oblivious to rags, flags and bags of any colour, avoiding accidental death in the morning.
I think this system, epitomised by Pamplona´s fiestas, the sanfermines, was a wise one, or would have been, if young, testosterone-fuelled men didn´t tie on coloured kerchiefs and run, trip, jump, fall and crawl in front of the bulls, behind them, around them, between them and, often, under them.
Surely today, too, there are more sophisticated methods of moving bulls around which would let these young and not so young Hemingways have a lie in of a weekend rather than stagger blearly-eyed at eight in the morning to a chaotic event that could take their lives. To see what I mean, check out this year´s horrific tapón in the entrance tunnel to the Pamplona bullring.
I suppose that Alcalá Town Hall´s re-introduction of the running of the bulls in recent years is only logical, given that a new bullring was built in the ensanche in 1998 to replace the old one in the heart of the city. There is, of course, a Fiesta Taurina every year with corridos de toros, but the venue, under the guise of Leisure Circuit (Círculo de Ocio), offers other cultural events and entertainment.
So am I being a Britishly-biased killjoy if I argue that while bullfights are one thing, the running of bulls along Alcalá´s Avenida de Miguel de Unamuno is something else entirely – particularly since the Ayuntamiento regards the event as a win-win situation in which the fiestas will be “revolutionised” at no added cost?
Apparently novillos, young or sub-standard bulls, perhaps with their horns blunted, are to be used, meaning that the animals will be much less dangerous to the runners. So maybe I´m getting all hot and bothered under the kerchief about a simple, traditional bit of fun……
…. in 2009, an alcalaíno, Daniel Jimeno Romero, was gored to death while running with the bulls in Pamplona.
There was a great outpouring of sympathy in Alcalá for this 27 year old but a press interview with his bereaved girlfriend left me totally perplexed.
Daniel, she stated, always acted responsibly when he took part in encierros up and down the country.
He never went out partying the night before running and particularly enjoyed Pamplona because of its reputation as one of the safest encierros. Apparently, medical attention gets to runners faster there than in other places.
Aside from my inability to grasp how you can run in front of a dozen, 500 kilo bulls responsibly, I´m interested in knowing what safety assurances the alcalaínos will have from the Town Hall authorities so keen on this apparent freebie. How free, in our cash-strapped health service, is it to have a fully-equipped Samur mobile hospital parked next to the bullring?
The word encierro has a more modern meaning outwith tauromachy, one certainly more relevant in this crisis-ridden Spain. An encierro is a protest sit-in over issues such as labour rights, education or health care.
I can´t help thinking that Alcalá´s Ayuntamiento has found a way of channelling the aggression of young, unemployed male citizens away from political action and into mindless pursuits (nunca mejor dicho, pardon the pun). A subidón of life-threatening testosterone will definitely alleviate the stress of day-to-day financial worry.
Who will be the next, mortal victim of this primitive, machista, bread and circuses mentality to go straight from the encierro to his own entierro? At Dani Jimeno´s funeral, his parents declared their love for the fiesta that killed their son and his friends spoke of collecting signatures to have the name of the street on which he lived changed to Calle de Daniel Jimeno.
Yo flipo. Really, I just don´t get it.