The festival of San Fermin occurs every year from July 6th at 12:00 am to July 14th at midnight in the city of Pamplona in Navarre, Spain. Locally known as Sanfermines, this festival has a series of events held every day in honor of Saint Fermin, the co-patron of Navarre. Over time it has become one of the most well known international festivals, along with Semana Santa, as over 1,000,000 people travel to Pamplona every year at this time. While San Fermin is a rich cultural and historical event, it has faced controversy in recent years due to its cruel treatment of animals during it's most famous tradition, the encierro, or the running of the bulls.


Saint Fermin

Fermin was the son of a Roman scholar born in the 3rd century. He became a catholic priest and later moved to Pamplona to become their church's first bishop. He was killed on a preaching voyage and is recognized as a martyr for the Catholic Church. His veneration for Sainthood occurred in the 12th century and along with Saint Francis Xavier became the co-patron of Navarre. It is rumored that like his mentor Saint Saturninus, he was killed by being dragged through the streets by bulls.[1]

Festival Origins

As early as the 14th century an annual July fair occurred where merchants brought their cattle into the city which led to the tradition of bull fighting. On October 10th religious ceremonies occurred in honor of Saint Fermin and in 1591, these ceremonies were transferred to July to coincide with the fair. This was considered the first festival of San Fermin. At this time events such as singing, dancing and bullfighting took place but not until the 17th century was the running of the bulls a part of the festival.[2]

Individual Events


Chupinazo comes from the Basque language and this event signals the start of the festival every year since 1941. A rocket is launched off on July 6th at noon from a city hall balcony. Every year the mayor selects an honorary guests to launch the rocket as thousands of people attend the inaugural event.

Saint Fermin ProcessionRunning-of-the-Bulls-Spain.jpg

On July 7th a 15th century statue of Saint Fermin is guided by politicians, street performers, dancers and thousands of others as it is paraded through the old town of Pamplona. During the ceremony a Jota(ancient dance) is performed in honor of Saint Fermin and Saint Cernin or Saint Saturninus.

Running of the Bulls

Locally known as the encierro, the running of the bulls is an every day event from July 6th to July 14th in which thousands of people are chased half a mile through the old town of Pamplona by six bulls and six steers. Originally the idea of the event came from the need to transport the bulls from outside the city for the bullfights, and the first record of the encierro as an official event was in 1787. The run begins at 8:00 am every morning where the bulls are led into the an arena where at 6:30 pm they are killed by bullfighters. This event has created controversy world wide as it is both dangerous to humans and cruel to the animals involved. Since 1925, 15 people have died in these runs and every year 200 to 300 people are injured.[4] Also animal rights activists in recent years have attempted to get this event removed from the festival but as the festivals main draw to tourists and its long history, it is too culturally and economically important to be stopped. [3]

Pobre de mi

As the nine day festival concludes, the people meet at the Townhall Plaza at midnight on July 14th to sing Pobre de mi by candle light. This began the official closing tradition of San Fermin in the early 20th century.

Works Cited