Saturday, July 10, 2010

N'Awlins - Porque No?

Picture this: A massive sea of people all dressed in red and white running amuk, screaming as they're chased by wild horned creatures. Where are you? If you guessed Pamplona, Spain, during the St. Fermin festival featuring the famous "Running of the Bulls", you're completely wrong - off by a whole continent, in fact! You're actually in New Orleans' French Quarter during their San Fermin in Nueva Orleans! Started in 2007 to make up for a lull in tourism during the hot month of July, it has grown every year since. Now, some of you are surely thinking to yourself, "Wild bulls in the streets? How dangerous!!". No worries, as an alternative to bulls, the festival employs volunteers from the Big Easy Rollergirls, who wear giant decorative horns and chase runners, swatting them with giant novelty bats. It is an absolute riot!

Though I'll be sure to post pictures as soon as I get home, allow me to paint the picture for you. It's almost eight o'clock in the morning on one of the first Saturdays in July. The sun hasn't fully risen, but the heat and humidity are already setting in. You're standing on the sidewalk of a cobbled Bourbon Street, wearing all white except the large red sash around your waist and the matching kerchief on your neck. You hear cheers from the mass down the street in front of a bar where, in honor of this Encierro, they've been serving Mimosas since 7:00am (Never mind that some of the participants have already been up all night drinking). The tension is palpable as you await the pop of a firecracker to announce the release of the roller derby bulls. Suddenly, they're off! A screaming crowd fills the street, empty only moments before. The swish of plastic bats and the whoops and hollers of laughing victims fills the air. Then, an opening - you see your chance to join the massive river of white and red. Jumping out from the sidewalk, screams around you and cheers from onlookers alert you to the presence of the enemy behind you. The crowd swells, radiating in circles, away from a woman on rollerskates dressed in black and red. You look back to catch a glimpse of the horns attached to her helmet; nearly half her height. As you look again, your eyes meet, and your fate is sealed. With a throaghty "Ole!" she raises her bat into a passing shaft of sunlight and changes course toward her new target. You try to escape, but the crowd blocks you in three directions, and to stop would mean only a painful collision of bull and runner. Her next "Ole!" is much closer than you had anticipated, and with a light whoosh you feel the sting of a plastic bat on your behind- thrice! The race continues with not a few run-ins with heavy-handed rollerskating bulls, and ends in a dance party in the French Market. What a day!

The San Fermin Festival lasts a whole weekend, whichever is closest to July 6th, the date of the original Running of the Bulls. It features a variety of events which, this year, include a live screening of the Madrid-Netherlands World Cup Final. Unlike other New Orleans parties, the Running of the Bulls is quite family friendly, though children under ten are not allowed to run in the actual Encierro, they will enjoy watching older siblings (or even parents!) running for their lives. Those easily offended by incorrect cultural stereotypes should either take a chill pill. For some reason many Cinco de Mayo hats and moustaches have, for some reason, carried over. For those sticklers to logic I won't bother trying to explain the traditional matador-Elvis-impersonator parade that follows the bullrun.

Anyway, I hope this had been insightful! It's the first of many N'Awlins gems I plan to share with you, my dear readers!

Porque No?
Nostalgically Yours

1 comment:

What do you think?