46-year-old Jaime Alvarez says he thought the danger had passed when he stepped back into the bullfighting arena from his safety perch atop a fence to shoot a quick video to prove he was there. But the San Francisco resident was quickly charged by a stray bull and gored through the back of the neck — miraculously, though, without hitting his jugular vein or any major arteries.
Alvarez, who works as a public defender in Santa Clara County, was on vacation with his wife and daughter in Spain on Sunday, en route to watch their son play in a soccer tournament in another city. They decided to stop off in Pamplona to see the famous San Fermin festival, and while Alvarez hadn't planned on running with the bulls, he tells the Associated Press that he just got caught up in the energy and excitement in the street.
Alvarez says he was well ahead of the crowd and the animals for most of the course, running down the town's narrow streets and into the bull ring. By the time they reached the bullfighting plaza, the animals had caught up, and Alvarez jumped onto a fence for safety. It was only after he let his guard down and decided to shoot a quick, five-second video that a bull came out of nowhere.
"The impact was unlike anything I've ever felt. It was like being hit by a car or a truck," Alvarez tells the AP. "It was scary." And after he was hit, he says he was "stunned," and someone had to help him get out of the way and over to a paramedic. He says he knew things could be serious when he reached for the back of his neck and his hand came away covered in blood. The bull's horn actually went deep enough that it fractured a cheek bone.
Alvarez was rushed into emergency surgery Sunday, and was in stable condition as of Monday, with the expectation he could be released from the hospital today.
His wife and daughter, after finding out he'd be fine, were naturally pissed, and his wife had told him to stay out of the bull-running crowd.
Alvarez was one of two Americans gored in the first bull run on Sunday, the other was a 23-year-old Kentucky man who was tossed into the air by a bull and gored through the thigh. During the second run on Monday, there were fewer injuries — three Spaniards and one 48-year-old American were treated for bruises and minor injuries.
The running of the bulls has been going on in Pamplona for over a century, and 16 deaths have been recorded since 1910, when records began being kept. The city of 200,000 people, made famous for Americans in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, sees 1 million people annually for the San Fermin festival.
Bullfighting and the festival itself has drawn plenty of criticism in recent decades, as the bulls which participate in the run are then sentenced to die in the ring. Animal rights activists regularly protest the festival, as they did this year. Below is a video of a "die-in" staged by PETA and a European animal rights group, in which dozens of protesters laid down their half-naked bodies in a plaza, wearing horns and with fake spears sticking out of their backs.