PspainPamplona is located 253 miles north of Madrid in Spain and 57 miles southeast of San Sebastián. The city is in the province of Navarre and the population is normally about 196,000. However, in July during the San Fermin festival made famous by Ernest Hemingway in his novel The Sun Also Risesthe population surges to more than 1 million. The Festival of San Fermin begins at noon on July 6 and ends at midnight on July 14. Each day at 8 am, the running of the bulls (6 bulls and 6 steers) occurs in the streets of Pamplona moving the bulls from the outskirts to the plaza de toros (bullring) for the corrida (roughly translated to bullfights) held later in the day.


–Bill Hillmann on the cover of his book

I just read a captivating book called Mozos: A Decade Running with the Bulls of Spain by Bill Hillmann. The author is the American gored during the fiesta in 2014 and who successfully returned to run again in 2015. Hillmann wrote his first book, The Old Neighborhood, about growing up in Chicago, published in 2013 by Curbside Publishing. I started paying attention to what happens each year in Pamplona from reading about EMH’s life around the same time Hillmann was beginning to visit Pamplona during Fiesta each year. In Mozos, Hillmann explains how running with the bulls has enriched his life tremendously and how his focus on this yearly event has helped him deal with stress, mental illness, and substance abuse. The love and camaraderie Hillmann shares with fellow longtime runners, Spanish and those from other countries, is also a reason he returns to Pamplona each July. Once I started reading Mozos, I could not stop and had to force myself to break away every few hours. Hillmann writes in a very fast-paced manner, much like his engaging personality.

If you want to learn about the Sanfermines festival and how serious the experienced and longtime runners revere the tradition, I highly recommend Mozos. The book presents the history and traditions of the festival, as well as pertinent advice to new runners and how to navigate the runs, better than any other book I have seen.

Following is an interview with Hillman after his 2014 goring and return in 2015.

  12 comments for “Pamplona

  1. April 19, 2016 at 6:33 AM

    Denise, I know there are still days (and letters!) to go, but let me say how much I’ve enjoyed this blog. Your research is obvious, your love of Hemingway is cleat. Well done!

    • April 19, 2016 at 7:26 AM

      Thank you so very much, Martha. I am certainly enjoying your related posts, for sure.

  2. April 19, 2016 at 6:38 AM

    I’m sure many people think my recreational choices are extreme, but I have never understood the running of the bulls other than the original runners may have been some of the first adrenaline junkies. To each his own……I still enjoyed the blog! ZD

    • April 19, 2016 at 7:30 AM

      Hillmann gives great insight in his book into this world and on how much the encierro has helped him in life. There is great history and tradition in the Fiesta.

  3. hilarymb
    April 19, 2016 at 9:11 AM

    Hi Denise – I went to Pamplona decades ago – it’s a wonderful town … no raging bulls at that time … your description of Hillmann’s book sounds as though it would bring the story of bull running and life of the fiesta totally to light – and how through his passion he’s healing himself … fascinating. Then too – I’m sure I’d read Hemingway’s book …

    When we were there – we saw the rope making that was a major industry in the town – maybe it’s a tourist attraction now … but it’s not mentioned in WIki today …

    Cheers Hilary

    • April 19, 2016 at 9:15 AM

      I will have to look up the rope making in Pamplona, Hilary, and see what I find. Glad you have traveled there. I think it would be fun to see the running of the bulls at least once . . . I’m am sure the town is quite mellow when it is not fiesta. Thanks, Denise

  4. April 19, 2016 at 11:48 AM

    Fascinating — dealing with substance abuse or mental illness by running with the bulls. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes. The mind is so overtaken by substance abuse or any other abuse that it needs something extreme to redirect it. I’ve heard about horse therapy — people being around horses, a gentle, big animal — as therapy. Thanks for sharing. Every part of the world is uniquely different — that’s what makes the world go ’round.

    • April 19, 2016 at 12:00 PM

      Yes, it does make sense to me, too, Silvia. One of the things I admire about Hillmann is that he puts time and energy in helping others have their best runs. He realizes how he benefits from doing this as well.

  5. April 19, 2016 at 3:32 PM

    I have heard of this festival before never knew the reason behind it. I have saved the link to favorites and will check it out later, as it does interest me.

    • April 19, 2016 at 3:58 PM

      Excellent, Cheryl. I am glad!

  6. Andrea @ Maybe It's Just Me
    April 19, 2016 at 7:21 PM

    Wow! I didn’t realize it went on for so many days!

    • April 19, 2016 at 9:41 PM

      Hi, Andrea. The runs themselves only take 4 minutes or so, but yes, the fiesta does last more than a week. During the days there’s lots of music, dancing, parades, food, drink, corrida, and fireworks.

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