Alvaro Barrientos/AP
Revelers run on Estafeta Street during the second run of the Cebada Gago fighting bulls at
the San Fermin festival, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Wednesday, July 8, 2009.

Spaniard Gored by Bull at Pamplona's San Fermin Festival

July 10, 2009 02:00 PM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
The death of Spaniard Daniel Jimeno Romero brought a somber mood to yesterday's festivities, a reminder that amid the revelry, running with aggressive bulls is a grave risk.

Fourth Run of the Bulls Leads to Gory Death

The fourth running of the bulls for this year’s San Fermin festival in Pamplona ended with the death of 27-year-old Daniel Jimeno Romero, a native from Alcala de Henares vacationing in Pamplona with his family, the Associated Press reports. In spite of Jimeno Romero’s death, the remaining bull runs will continue as planned, with the festival ending on Tuesday.

The San Fermin Web site quotes a statement from Maria Kutz, health minister of the government of Navarra, explaining that Jimeno Romero “suffered an intra-clavicle injury to the neck which caused him to lose a lot of blood and he was admitted to hospital suffering cardiac arrest.”

As the AP explains, Jimeno Romero was killed by Capuchino, a 1,130-pound bull that separated from the pack and became frightened and overly aggressive. The Spanish paper El Pais published an amateur video of the tragedy, which showed Jimeno Romero tripping over other runners in his attempts to escape the bull, falling and failing to exit through one of the protective fences. The bull managed to wound him fatally in the neck with his right horn. Jimeno Romero bled heavily while paramedics attempted to save him.

Fermando Boneta, director of Virgen del Camino Hospital, told the AP that three other people were gored and six others were injured during the run.

Background: Recent deaths at the running of the bulls

Since record-keeping for the festival began in 1924, a total of 14 people have died, the AP reported in 2008; Jimeno Romero brings the number to 15. In 2003, 63-year-old local Fermin Etxeberri was trampled by one of the charging bulls and died after spending several months in a coma. In 1995, Matthew Tassio, a 22-year-old American, suffered from a “fatal goring,” according to AP. Tassio “died because he did not know bullrunning's cardinal rule: ‘when you fall, stay down,’” adds the Sunday Herald. In 2008, an accident not directly related with the run claimed another life: “an Irishman fell to his death from the city ramparts,” the Sunday Herald reports.

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Historical Context: The Festival of San Fermin

The conservative Spanish town of Pamplona undergoes a sensational transformation every year on July 6 when it hosts the festivities of San Fermin, attracting thousands of enthusiastic visitors from across the globe. In spite of the drinking, dangerous bull running and general revelry, runners dressed in white with red handkerchiefs around their necks still pay homage to San Fermin, an eighth-century martyr who was beheaded for advocating Christianity during Muslim rule. How? By “pelting each other with eggs, flour, saffron and fizzy wine,” the Sunday Herald reports.

As Spanish Fiestas explains, the original festival was held on Oct. 10, but as its religious spirit was diminished by the inclusion of music, dancing, banquets and bullfights, the Pamplona Council proposed that it be moved to July 7. The first official celebration of the new festival of San Fermin, which merged the religious, commercial and bullfighting festivals, occurred in 1591. Foreign participants in the festival began to appear in records dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Opinion & Analysis: Risk-taking might be genetic

“I'm not a psychologist, but on paper this festival is a disaster,” a senior police officer told the Sunday Herald. “Hundreds of thousands of people who don't speak each other's languages drink themselves to oblivion.” As if running with the bulls isn’t dangerous enough, intoxication would only seem to add to the risk involved, leaving many to wonder why people would risk their lives in such a reckless manner.

According to an article in Outside Magazine, researchers are learning more about the brains of extreme risk-takers, those whose seemingly insane pursuits are not deterred by the threat of danger or global economic instability. Scientists have determined that the proclivity for reckless behavior is in our genes, and may be responsible for human evolution. Those who were “genetically inclined to seek out the better-tasting protein, the greener pastures, the prettier mates from unfamiliar territory” have propelled the human race forward, Florence Williams suggests in Outside.

Related Topic: Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”

In 1926, American writer Ernest Hemingway helped to make the festival of San Fermin internationally famous with the publication of his novel “The Sun Also Rises.” The novel describes the annual festival in Pamplona through the eyes of a World War I veteran. According to SparkNotes, the bullfighting episodes in the novel are deeply symbolic, resonating with various themes and characters throughout the novel. 

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