PAMPLONA, SPAIN – Residents of the Spanish city of Pamplona, in northern Spain, dressed Monday in white clothes and traditional red scarves to mark what should have been the start of the annual San Fermin festival, which was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Known for its bullfighting through cobbled streets, the festival was popularized by Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” and was last canceled during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
With more than 28,000 deaths from the new virus and an economy in crisis after a strict national blockade, local officials say there is little to celebrate.
But Joaquin Beloki, a 33-year-old resident, said that it is still possible to toast “the health of all those who have not contracted the coronavirus”. He joined on Monday with about 400 people in a central square, where more than 12,000 would normally witness the opening of the festival.
They met in the town hall square at noon, when a rocket known as “Chupinazo” opens the 9-day festival at normal times. Revelers from around the world respond to the rocket by bathing in red wine and champagne.
Instead, a large plaque on the facade of the city hall displayed the slogan .WeWillExperienceThem, an invitation for revelers to return for next year’s celebrations.
Hundreds of police were mobilized to prevent impromptu parties in bars or on the streets.
The mayor of the city, Enrique Maya, said at a news conference that 2020 is “a parenthesis in which we will accumulate a desire to celebrate in 2021”.
A video was also released with the medical team reminding viewers that “one day it would be irresponsible to ruin three months of everyone’s efforts”, in reference to the confinement that Spain enacted from mid-March to mid-June.
Associated Press writer Aritz Parra contributed from Madrid.