This year marks a century since Hemingway’s first visit to Pamplona.
“It’s a tradition that dates back to the 14th century, but what is it really like to experience running with the bulls in Spain? David Culver heads to Pamplona to explore the lure of running with bulls, as well as the controversy around it.”
The Whole Story, an Original CNN documentary
Northern Spain Travel is proud to have contributed to the CNN documentary on the running of the bulls, which is both informative and entertaining. It is a classic example of journalists maintaining objectivity while allowing viewers to form their own opinions.
Beyond the Bulls: Extending Your Adventures in Northern Spain
The documentary by David Culver focuses on presenting an objective view of the culture and traditions of the running of the bulls in the context of the San Fermn Festival. The result is a stunning documentary that delves into the many facets and hot button issues surrounding bull running and bullfighting, allowing viewers to make their own decisions.
Culver’s documentary begins by following the lives of North American runners who return year after year to take part not only in the annual running of the bulls, but also in the weeks and days preceding San Fermn. Surprisingly, only 16 people have died while watching the bulls run since records began in 1910.
Culver joins a group of runners who are receiving technique and tactics advice from seasoned competitors. As the race day approaches, Culver decides to don the traditional white pants and shirt, as well as the red scarf worn by runners, in order to experience and comprehend the thrill that so many runners seek.
The documentary also addresses the contentious issue of bullfighting, which is condemned by animal rights organizations but considered an integral part of heritage and culture in many regions of Spain.
The CNN documentary, in our opinion, provides the best representation of the Pamplona bull runs by providing a comprehensive account of the runs provided by North American runners, one of whom is Dr. Bill Hillmann, a novelist and professor of creative writing at East-West University in Chicago.
Bill Hillmann fell in love with the encierro (bull running) and now runs in several other Spanish towns, in addition to San Fermin in Pamplona, and has participated in well over 100 runs. We highly recommend Bill’s books “Mozos” or his most recent novel “Los Pueblos” for advice or inspiration to be a part of a San Fermin adventure. Bill Hillmann does an excellent job of sharing his passions with the rest of the world.
The Risks of running with the bulls
One of the documentary’s personal highlights was seeing Tasio Blazquez, the 22-year-old son of Northern Spain Travel’s founder Steph Mutsaerts in action. Tasio tripped and fell in front of the entire herd on July 8th, the day the bulls from the Cebada Gago ranch ran the course, right where the CNN cameras were filming. Tasio had no idea where the cameras were, and the CNN crew had no idea who Tasio was. He was clearly performing for the cameras, making it a hilarious and awesome moment for his fifteen minutes of fame.
Northern Spain Travel founder Steph Mutsaerts recounted the event as follows: “Here’s how the story goes: I wake up to a phone call from Ander Echanove, a Basque/North American runner and novelist, informing me that Tasio had been trampled by the herd but was fine. As I learn more, I realize that the fall occurred precisely where the cameras were installed. I tell CNN producer Natalie, ‘You must have seen my son get trampled today because it was exactly here’ (I point to the location). ‘That was your son?’ Natalie asks, puzzled. We witnessed the entire incident, in which the entire herd jumped over him and he miraculously escaped unharmed. We were going to interview him, but he bolted into the crowd. ‘And this is how Tasio was interviewed and filmed as he described a local runner’s experience running with the bulls.”
First and foremost, we’d like to thank Bill Hillmann for recommending us to CNN as the best fixer in the region, with the know-how and contacts required to make this documentary a success. Second, it was a true pleasure to work with the lovely people behind this CNN production, the ‘A’ team, which included producer Natalie Angley, reporter David Culver, and cameramen Jordan Guzzardo, Martin Bourke, and Joe Teahan. David Culver is an incredible journalist, an incredible interviewer, and a kind and sensitive soul. He truly entered our community with an open heart, as evidenced by the film.
Sign up for one of our tours to experience San Fermin from the inside. We offer packages that combine some of Spain’s best festivals, museums, gastronomy, and wine experiences. In a San Fermin experience, we highlight the true essence of Spain’s greatest festival of all. San Fermin is a once-in-a-lifetime ‘must’, a true bucket list adventure.
Discover the heart of this magical region, where a perfect combination of first-class experiences, exceptional gastronomy and sensational accommodation gives you the most authentic Spanish experience.
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