In Extremadura you can also run in front of the bulls. This takes place at a walled city and it is the stampede of the “sanjuanes” of Coria. The festivity starts on June 23 and continues with great enthusiasm and passion for seven days. The whole town participates: the mozos , which are the young men that run in front of the bulls and in general crowds of on lookers from the town and visitors.
The tradition started 1976 and it has been declared a festival of Touristic Interest , on a Honorary Basis. For the corianos it is more than a festival because it carries feelings, a way of life, a way to understand a fun activity that fulfills a whole ritual.
The Festival officially starts on the night of the 23 rd of June, with a custom called the “quema del capazo” which is the burning of wicker baskets in the center of the Plaza España, surrounded by a multitude of people. This event starts the party and the dance surrounding the fire, which is believed to purify. The burning of the wicker baskets, leads to the pistol shot that marks the beginning of this festivity, which is the identity mark of this town located in the valley of Alagón, in the north of Extremadura.
To live the “sanjuanes” of Coria is to dive into a living tradition, into a legendary festivity, into an ancestral ritual. But also, it is music, parades, concerts, street performances, games and fun for children, shared food and beer at the clubs of the bullfighting enthusiasts. Fun rendered to the service of immaterial cultural heritage constituted by the bullfights of Coria.
The celebrations of the “Sanjuanes “ of Coria begin with an initial rocket
The organization of this festivity starts twelve months prior to the event under the responsibility of the standard bearer, who is a member of the municipal corporation and is elected in a plenary session twelve months before the event. This person is presented to the public during the festivities of Corpus Christi, in an official celebration at the Municipality. The opening address, the initial rocket, the flavoring of Gazpacho, punch and perrunillas, which is a traditional Spanish cookie from Extremadura, made with shortening, eggs, flour, cinnamon and a splash of liqueur, are offered by the standard bearer to the general public during the night and announces that the first day of the festival is closer. This is a very exciting gala where the beauty queen, the maids of honor, both young girls and children, and the standard bearers of the various clubs share the limelight.
Letting twelve bulls run loose in the streets
The absolute star of the “sanjuanes” is the bull. Up to twelve fighting bulls go through the streets of the walled city during dawn and some afternoons. This race marks the life in Coria during these seven days. The town council, every year, provides seven bulls. The additional five bulls are donated by the clubs, which are the “Junta de Defensa”, the “Juventud Cauriense”, the 27 and “La Geta”. Also, the Vaca de La Rana, a cow, is provided by the Asociación de Hosteleros del Rollo and the Burbujas and Toskano coffee shops.
On the 23rd of June , the oxen are brought in from the country side to the city, to prepare for the stampede of the tame. The purpose of this is to establish the route that the fighting bulls will have to follow each day. Also, as an opener, they let the La Rana (the frog cow) loose in the city.
Seven days, eleven stampedes
Dawn starts every night at 3:30 in the morning. The starting of the stampede is announced thru loud speakers. The sound of a rocket is heard and the bulls are let out from their enclosed yard, which is located in the Sierra de Gata Avenue. For a fast run, the fighting bull and the oxen are released and they arrive to the Plaza España, where the bull is fought for 30 minutes.
The four gates of the plaza are closed during these 30 minutes and the bull is the master and the owner of the arena. During this time the bells are sounded, every ten minutes, through the megaphone. At the mark of ten minutes the first bell is sounded, when twenty minutes have passed the second bell is sounded and finally the third and last bell is sounded when thirty minutes have been completed. At this point the four gates of the plaza are opened: Santiago, Cárcel Real, four streets and Obispo street.
Starting now the bull can run free along the walled city streets of Coria. It is allowed into the cathedral, into the Plaza de la Cava, along the Rúa de los Paños, or into San Pedro. The fight of the bull can last for two hours, depending on the game, the thrill and excitement provided by the bull during this time along the streets.
Once the night activities end and all the partying, the people of Coria have a few hours to rest and start all over again. Before the day brakes, the city will wake to the smell of another bull. The morning stampede is programmed for every day, except on June 25, when the stampede is planed for 13:30 in the afternoon. The bull is released with the oxen, guided to the Plaza and locked on a bull pen. It will remain in the bull pen until the fight in the afternoon. June 25 is the day of the Junta de Defensa club, and the stampede is set one hour earlier, because this day the mythical club provides two bulls for the festival. One is fought during the afternoon as requested by the tradition and the other at 12:30 during the morning hours, after the end of the stampede.
The bullfighting clubs are key to the “sanjuanes” of Coria
The functions of the bullfighting clubs are key to the success of a festival such as the “sanjuanes”, which is an identifying mark of this city. Not only the traditional clubs that provide bulls for the festival but also each and every group that spread out through the city, maintaining their doors open to visitors and having them participate in the fiesta.
The excitement lived during the nights of the “sanjuanes” repeats every night starting at 20:00 hours, with the same ritual and procedure as in the dawn. The standard bearer releases his favorite bull on the afternoon of the 24th, which is the day of the patron Saint. The Junta de Defensa Club and its bull star the events of the 25th of June. The Club called Juventud Cauriense, which represents the new generations, the young people, performs at the fiesta on the 26th of June. The next club that leads is the festival is The 27 and the last, is La Geta, which releases the last bull of the festival until next year. The festival of the people of Coria is open to all people: locals, visitors from Spain and also to people that come from other countries. Because Coria is Saint John and Saint John is Coria.
The “sanjuanes de Coria”, at the Valley of Alagón, in the north of Extremadura celebrated from the 23rd to the 29th of June.
Original article by Ainhoa Miguel
Translated by Susana Windt
Photography by Fotocauria, Karpint and Miguel Chaparro