Pamplona is a very quiet and small city, in fact we are just 200.000 people.
In Spain we are known to be a bit conservative and a little bit shy, but all of this changes on July 6th at noon.
It is the opening ceremony for San Fermín or as we call it El Chupinazo.
Lets strat with some little history of the San Fermín festivities. What we celebrate is the life and death of our main Saint Patron San Fermín. This celebration started in the middle ages, we don´t exactelly know when.
Back then this party, was celebrated in September, but the farmers of the XVI century couldn´t celebrate. I guess there is a lot to do at that time of the year if you are a farmer. It was 1591, when they moved this celebrations to July.
The openning ceremony is not this old, the first records go just to 1901. Foe many years, it was a very casual moment, it was just the locals lighting some rockets. All of these rockets, they where lighted from Plaza del Castillo, Pamplona´s largest square.
In 1931, the firsat OFFICIAL rocket was launche, The gentelman who had this honor was Mr.Juan Etxepare, a local politician.
The years of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) the opnenning ceremony was not celebrated. It was in 1041 (under Franco´s regime) when we changed the location from Plaza del Castillo, to the City Hall. And as you can imagine only politicians could have this honor.
That first year, was our Mayor: Joaquín Ilundáin. During Franco time (1939 till 1975) different things were screamed from the balcony to the crowd “Arriba España” , “Viva Franco, Viva España” Little by little It changed to a less fascist sentence, And now we say “PAMPLONESES VIVA SAN FERMIN, GORA SAN FERMIN” In Spanish and Basque. Our 2 official lenguajes.
It was 2014, the first time, that a no-politician launched the rocket. It was the RED CROSS, to commemorate thir 150 anniversary. Since then, locals we have the chance to vote for who we want to hold this honor. Now it is people or institutions that we all love, such as the local band “La Pampolonesa” , the “giants and Bigheads” , “El Tuli” a local hero…..
You have to think that on this day we welcome about 1 million people from everywhere around the world. It is magnificent. All of this people try to fit in a very small square. So here are some tips that could make your life easier when coming to the opening ceremony:
- If you are planning to go inside the City Hall square be there before 11:00 am. It will be impossible for you to get even close to the square. It gets too crowded.
- If you are in the square facing the City Hall I strongly recommend you not to be on the back left of the square. Every year a large group of people stays in that place and they are extra drunk. They come with an international tour company that sells only drinking tours ( I am not joking). It is not nice.
- Eat well before you enter the square. You will be there until 14:00 minimum and there is no way you will be able to get any food.
- It will be hot, very hot, so take some liquids with you, water, wine … but always in plastic bottles. The police will not allow you in the square with any crystal container.
- This is going to sound obvious, do not wear sandals, wear tennis shoes. Every year we send about a hundred people to hospital because they were not aware of this little tip.
- Do not wear a back pack. It is useless, police will not allow you in the square with a backpack. Just carry whatever you want on you.
- Unless you are physically prepared and you are ready to be covered with wine do not go into the City Hall Square.
- If you do not want to go to the middle of the City Hall square, you can be a little bit more relaxed in Plaza del Castillo, but if you are with children you should go a little further to the avenue Carlos III or Paseo de Sarasate. There you will find big screens to see what is going on in the square but you will not be squeezed out in the crowd.
- If you are planning to rent a balcony spot, plan to pay about 500-600 euros per person. It will depend on the location of the balcony. All of them will serve you what we call “aperitivo”, which is a sort of cocktail lunch.
- When it ends do not go away right away, wait about 20 minutes because the city official band of “gaiteros” will come out of the City Hall playing music. It is so much fun, do not miss it.
I know it sounds wild and you might think that I am talking you into not going there at all, that is not my intention, I just want you to loveit as much as I do. If you follow these basic rules I believe you can make the most of it.
VIVA SAN FERMIN!!