By now, most of us will be well familiar with the Running of the Bulls, the ancient tradition that can be traced to way back in the day – to 14th Century Spain to be precise. You know, it’s the annual convo of man and beast – well, not a convo exactly since one of them snorts and snarls while the other whoops, hollers and might end up screaming if gouged (much to the delight of some spectators). But, everyone is running, running, running through streets in Spain – most popularly in Pamplona – that have been made into narrow corridors penning in bulls and runners, all in the name of having a good time. Little do the bulls know that they are actually running to their doom; well at least they get to poke a few asses on the way. Happy bulls.
A new mid-September tradition has started in lower Manhattan that sees bulls of the more plushy, rather than muscly, fleshy and threatening kind, frolicking with exuberant “runners.” On the evening of September 18 around 400 eager participants arrived at 100 Montaditos on Bleecker Street to get registered, branded (stamped and numbered), and issued a red t-shirt and bandana and a rolled up newspaper. A rolled up newspaper? We’re facing bulls here, not puppies (one might think)! But, alas, it is one of the best ways to divert a bull’s attention since they are easily distracted and this rudimentary tool has been used with life-saving success in the “real” running of the bulls. To get everyone psyched for the evening revelry the Festival of San Fermin was projected on screens throughout the restaurant, along with the wafting scent of freshly baked montadito bread. (The Festival was popularized amongst the “yanks” in Ernest Hemingway’s robust love letter to bullfighting and Spain: his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises while the bread has been popularized amongst hungry New Yorkers.)
At the New York festival three plushy bulls played along with the crowd, posed for pictures, taunted a few lucky guests, got everyone riled up and ready for soon the sun would be setting. As the clock struck seven, “Pobre de mi” – the anthem of bull running that usually ends the festivities – began to play and the bulls got down to business and it was time to get-a-runnin’. Or walking, or skipping, depending on just how fast one wanted to go. The bulls themselves trotted along, popped confetti cans, charged at people with their oh-so-threatening horns, and kept the revelers moving from Bleecker, to the Bowery, then on Houston and finally corralling onto Ludlow where the pack, which looked like red sea, congregated at 100 Montadito’s newest location.
All this excitement and exercise builds up a great thirst and hunger and the crowd was well rewarded with flowing cold beer, fruity sangria and a seemingly endless supply of freshly assembled montaditos. ¡Delicioso! Soon enough everyone was buzzing and suddenly the ¡Camarero, Camarero! started. This is a bit of a call-and-response joke cycle popular in Spain which typically goes:
Caller: ¡Camarero, Camarero! [Waiter/bartender/tavern keeper]
Respondant: ¿Qué? [What?]
Caller: ¡Una de…! [Get me some…]
Respondant: ¿Una de qué? [Some what?]
Caller: Una de mero, dos de febrero, tres de marzo, cuatro de abril…[a song starting with the name of the food being requested…]
This joviality went on for the rest of the night with everyone filling up on more beer, sangria and montaditos, and singing more songs from Spain – and perhaps bringing a bit of the festival home with them.
Until next year – ¡Olé!
Catalina Lotero, Felipe Guarin, Diana Molina