From July 6th to 14th every year the word FIESTA is written in capital letters in Pamplona.
The Sanfermines have arrived. When the chupinazo (ceremonial rocket) is fired, the city explodes into life. Thousands of people from all over the world descend on the city, which dresses up in red and white. For nine days the streets turn into a feast of friendship, joy, music and non-stop partying, to the rhythm of the charangas and the peñas.
The Encierro (Bull Run) is the only moment of the day when the party stops, and great tension descends on the route just a few minutes before the bulls start their ‘race’ behind the mozos (young men). The surge of emotions culminates in the bullring at the end of the run.
Much of the worldwide fame of the Sanfermines is due to the references made by Ernest Hemingway in his articles as a reporter and in his novel “The Sun Also Rises”, known as “Fiesta” in the Spanish-speaking world.
The future Nobel Prize winner first visited Pamplona on July 6th 1923, accompanied by his wife, Hadley Richardson. The Sanfermines made such an impression on him that he returned on several occasions, the last in 1959. During his visits to Pamplona he usually stayed at the Hotel La Perla in the Plaza del Castillo.
CHUPINAZO – FIRING OF THE ROCKET
6th July, at precisely 12 o’clock midday. “Pamploneses, Pamplonesas, Viva San Fermín” (People from Pamplona. Long live San Fermin) is the cry heard from the Pamplona City Hall balcony, marking the start of the Fiesta and preceded by the rocket fired from the balcony.
A crowd of people set on having a good time gathers in the Town Hall square to experience one of the most moving moments in the next 8 days. Minutes before this important moment, the square is full of singing and dancing with everyone waving their red kerchiefs (the symbol of the Fiesta) high in the air. From 12:01 onwards, the people from Pamplona and visitors alike knot the red kerchief around their necks and start on 8 days and 9 nights of festivities and amusement.
A Peña is a group of people or friends who are all passionate about the San Fermin fiestas. The peñas have been participating in the organisation and enjoyment of the various events included in the Fiesta program since the mid 20th century. They’re an essential part of the afternoon bullfighting and the music of their bands enlivens the streets at all hours. In their wanderings through the streets of the Old Part of Pamplona, they carry banners featuring episodes of life in the city.