Nafarroa Bai councillor Iñaki Cabasés launched the traditional firecracker, called "chupinazo", from the main balcony of the city hall in Pamplona/Iruña marking the start of the San Fermin festival.
San Fermin 2012. Photo: EFE
As expected, tens of thousands of people crowded into Pamplona/Iruña's main square Friday to celebrate the launching of a rocket that each year marks the beginning of the bull-running festival.
"Pamploneses, pamplonesas, viva San Fermin, gora San Fermin" ("Men and women of Pamplona, all hail to San Fermin"), Nafarroa Bai nationalist party town councillor Iñaki Cabasés said from a balcony overlooking the crowd before lighting the fuse, signaling the beginning of nine days of uninterrupted festivities in the northern town and after this the rocket was launched into the sky.
The San Fermin festival is known around the world for its running of the bulls. The mood and tradition was made famous in 1926 by Ernest Hemingway in his novel The Sun Also Rises.
Most revelers sported traditional white pants and shirts with a red neckerchief tied at the front. All were covered in copious amounts of wine, sangria, sparkling wine and others drinks. Residents poured buckets of water over the crowd from their balconies to help cool down the revelers.
The first bull run is due to take place Saturday, an event repeated daily until July 14, and all are broadcast nationwide on state television. Each run takes place at 8 a.m., testing the skills and courage of participants, who must race alongside six fearsome fighting bulls along 875 yards (800 meters) of narrow, cobblestone streets linking the city's stables to the bullring. On the afternoon of each day, the bulls must face matadors in the ring.
Since record keeping began in 1924, 13 people have been killed in the running of the bulls. The last victim was a 22-year-old American gored to death in 1995.
It is customary for several hundred animal rights activists to protest against the cruelty they say takes place during the festivities. Half naked, they traditionally lie down along the route of the bull run the day before the fiesta, covered in fake blood and bearing placards in different languages asking for the "Abolition of bullfighting", or saying "Bulls have a bloody death in Pamplona".