20 June 2011

Global Seminars & Invited Speaker Series


The Sanfermines of a century ago as seen by the magazine "La Avalancha".

Mr. José Javier Azanza López.
University of Navarra

From the very moment it was founded in 1895, the illustrated magazine La Avalancha published an extraordinary - or, as it was called at the time, gala - issueon the occasion of the San Fermín fiestas, characterised by its greater length and typographic richness. In its first quarter of a century of life -until 1920, the period on which we have focused our study-, the contents of the magazine and the images that accompany them -captured by Julio Altadill, Roldán y Mena, Roldán e hijo, Emilio Pliego, Manuel Negrillos, Ubaldo Abete, Victorino Alfonso, Pedro Ledescha and son, Emilio Pliego, Manuel Negrillos, Ubaldo Abete, Victorino Alfonso, Pedro Ledescha and Pedro Ledescha, Victorino Alfonso, Pedro Ledesma, Millán Mendía, José Martínez Berasáin and Aquilino García Deán, among others - give us an insight into the reality of the Sanfermin fiestas at that time, by capturing the main aspects of the fiesta which can be grouped into various categories:
The saint, the cult, the devotion. The extraordinary issueof San Fermín always opens with a publishing housewhich welcomes the fiestas, insists on their religious nature and invokes the protection of the saint patron saintin the face of the secularism which was threatening society. Alongside the publishing housethere are various contributions that revolve around the saint, whether from a historical, artistic or devotional perspective, which are usually illustrated with images of churches of special significance for San Fermín: San Fermín de los Navarros in Madrid, Amiens Cathedral, San Fermín de Aldapa and, mainly, San Lorenzo and the Chapel of San Fermín, with the image of the saint, shrine, altar frontal, reliquaries, etc.

Cover of the extraordinary issueof San Fermín

La Avalancha, 8-7-1899. Cover of the extraordinary issueof San Fermín

The festival posters. The magazine usually shows the corresponding poster for the fiestas, accompanied by a brief explanatory review. samplehas a real enthusiasm for Javier Ciga, whose posters it reproduces and praises from the first in 1908 to the last in 1920. However, we also note the absence of some posters, which seems to be justified as being alien to the spirit of the fiestas and not very decorous in the depiction of the figures.

The civic-religious processions: Vespers and the procession of the saint. La Avalancha pays special attention to the solemn vespers, which took place on the evening of 6 July, a religious act that marked the official start of the festivities and which was enhanced by the presence of the Town Hall. And also to the procession on 7 July, the main religious event on the programme, in which details of the route, protocoland the procession are given in detail.

The magic of the giants and big-heads. Already at that time, giants and big-heads were a true institution, present both in the religious processions and in the festive atmosphere, walking the streets of the city to the sound of the dulzainas. The four pairs of giants, created in 1860 by the painter and craftsman Tadeo Amorena, were accompanied by their procession of big-heads, and the kilikis and shaldiko-maldikos, who chased the boys who challenged them with cries of "A... quí..., not with your cock, with your bladder yes", and "". The previous procession was punctually joined - in 1910 - by a special guest, the Gargantua from Bilbao. 

Giants in the procession of San Fermín.

La Avalancha, 8-7-1895. Giants in the procession of San Fermín.
Manuel Negrillos.


Music in the fiestas: the great morning concerts. One of the great spectacles of the San Fermín fiestas in the first decades of the century, which has now disappeared. At a quarter past ten in the morning, the morning concerts organised by the Sociedad Santa Cecilia and the Orfeón Pamplonés began in the Teatro Principal - later Gayarre. The audience packed the conference room, occupying not only the seats, but every available corner or staircase. In addition to the aforementioned entities, renowned musicians, such as the pianist and composer Joaquín Larregla from Lumbier, contributed to its splendour. But the final apotheosis was reserved for a name of his own, that of Pablo Sarasate, an institution of the fiestas of San Fermín until the time of his death in 1908.

The world of bullfighting: the running of the bulls and bullfights. Bullfighting, one of the main attractions of the fiestas of San Fermín, is the focus of much of the interest of the articles in the magazine, which basically deal with three aspects: the walk of the locals and outsiders, at the end of the eve of the 6th of July, to the Sario or Soto del Sadar, to enjoy the bulls that were to be fought during the fiestas; the running of the bulls, which began when the clock on the tower of San Cernin struck six in the morning, an event that was unique in Spain in the opinion of the magazine's contributors; and the bullfights, a spectacle that was undeniably popular in Pamplona, in view of the superb entries that the bullring presented every afternoon. Firstly, despite the abundance of bullfighting reviews, there are hardly any images on the subject, just a few views of El Sario and a snapshot of one of the 1916 bull runs in the Mercaderes section, reproduced the following year. Secondly, there is no single way of thinking about bullfighting on evaluation, where we find supporters and detractors of the national fiesta with arguments that are still very topical a century later.

Running of the bulls in the fiestas of San Fermín

La Avalancha, 6-7-1917. Running of the bulls in the fiestas of San Fermín. José Martínez Berasáin.

Fairs and livestock fairs for San Fermín. During this period the livestock fair was held on the outskirts of the city, in the glacis of the San Nicolás gate. The fair was attended by dealers - characterised by their typical blouses - and buyers - the Valencian origin of many of them is emphasised - and numerous sales and purchases were made, mainly of horses and cattle. Also present at quotationwere the gypsy families, who carried out a certain amount of surveillance work in the fairgrounds; and the "aguaduchos", stalls selling sugar water and liquors, where fairgoers and visitors quenched their thirst, were also part of the fair's image.

Other amusements and scenes of the festival. These included the stroll along Estafeta street, where chairs were placed on the pavements for attendfor a select parade that lasted from the end of the morning concert until lunchtime. The entertainment at placedel Castillo, with music and dancing, a walk through the luminous tunnel, and a fireworks display at dusk. The fun at the barracas, set up on military grounds in the Ensanche interior, where visitors could visit the shooting booths, scientific curiosities and attractions such as the "toboggan", a great success at the time, and attend the circus, the theatre or lesser shows, while tasting some delicious churros bought in the churrerías near the Citadel; it was even possible to watch foot-ball competitions in this urban space for a few years. Finally, there were the music concerts in the gardens of the Taconera, where the "kermesse" was also held, a kind of tombola - a forerunner of today's Cáritas - for charitable purposes destined for the Pamplona Casa de Misericordia (House of Mercy).
Absent from the above festive programme are the two events that currently open and close the fiestas: the "Chupinazo" and the "Pobre de mí", which were made official after the period under study. With the laying of the first stone of the Nuevo Ensanche, on the 29th November 1920, Pamplona opened up to a new urban and social reality; three years later, on the 6th July 1923, Ernest Hemingway arrived from Paris and his contribution to the universal dissemination of the fiestas was decisive. But those would be other Sanfermines.


Swing, slide and other fun at the San Fermín fiestas

The Avalanche, 6-7-1909. Swing, slide and other amusements at the fiestas of San Fermín. Aquilino García Deán.