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javeamigos.com | VIRGEN DEL CARMEN

Sunday 22nd January 2012

javeamigos.com | SAN SEBASTIAN - BULLS

Scroll down for a full gallery of pictures.

After a twenty-year absence, the bulls returned to the centre of town this weekend as Jávea honoured its patron saint, San Sebastián, in a manner that has not been seen for many years. Many hundreds gathered around the temporary arena that had been created in Plaça d'Esglčsia and Plaça de Baix and many more in the bars and restaurants that surrounded it. They cheered and applauded as a few brave souls faced danger against the horns, often leaping to safety at the last minute in a perilous game of chicken in which they would almost certainly come out worst. The handful of people receiving treatment from in the ambulances of the Cruz Roja testified to that.

The celebrations began on Friday, the day of San Sebastián, with the ringing of the church bells and a modest parade in which the cofradía dished out pieces of cake and a small glass of mistela wine to onlookers. In previous years, this small procession and the special mass later in the evening was all that marked San Sebastían, the town's patron saint whose memory has been somewhat diminished in recent years by the comparatively grander celebration of Jesús Nazareno and the Fogueres midsummer festivities. Fitting for 2012, the 400th anniversary of the town's granting of royal approval, the running of the bulls event, for so long pushed out to an uninspiring piece of tarmac on the outskirts of town, made a welcome return to the centre of town for a special three-day taurina festival in a long-awaited revival of the San Sebastián celebrations

A temporary arena had been constructed in the church square and the smaller square down the archway steps enclosed by the metal cadafales inside which observers could take safety from the oncoming horns. There was great anticipation for such a historic event; heffers last chased the fearless through the centre of town some two decades earlier. The first run attracted several hundred people who crammed into the cages to grab a glimpse of the courageous aiming to get as close as possible to the horns in front of the marvellous historic backdrop of the San Bartolome church. Loud music accompanied the action, occasional broken by reminders that the under-16s and those under the influence of drink were prohibited from entering the area. Blue-coated members of the Associació Cultural Taurina de Xŕbia kept a subtle eye on proceedings, guiding those who shouldn't be present gently towards the cages with polite but firm requests to observe the rules. For three days the centre of town was alive with the obvious beneficial knock-on effects as bars and restaurants enjoyed bumper takings, much appreciated in these tough economic times. There were several near-misses and some not so as a handful unfortunates were treated for an array of injuries by the Cruz Roja volunteers who were always close by.

There are many who think that such traditions are cruel and have no place in modern society. They dislike the taunting of a defenceless animal, claim general mistreatment and consider the event to be too dangerous. Supporters point out that society needs these customs, especially during these tough times. They point out there is no intention to do harm to the animal. There are no picadores or banderilleros. No matador will deliver a final killer blow. In reality, the only blood that might be drawn would be from a 'runner' who has mistimed a leap to safety. A Spanish friend met with us in Bar Imperial where the events just a few metres outside its front door were being broadcast live on a television screen behind the bar. She'd seen a few negative comments about the bull events. "Look, the bulls are neither here nor there," she told us. "Outside there is a community which has come together on a Saturday night. People are smiling, laughing. What is so bad about that?" Maybe she has a point. Yet, much like politics and religion, it is an issue that will continue to divide opinion. And no doubt the arguments and counter-arguments will begin all over again when bull-running returns in three months time for the Jesús Nazareno celebrations.

Read more about San Sebastián by clicking here.

javeamigos.com | BESIDES THE SEA