Pamplona might get the lion’s share of publicity and notoriety for its annual Running of the Bulls but Huamantla, located in Mexico‘s Tlaxcala state, hosts its own equally exciting version: the Huamantlada.
North American thrill-seekers don’t need to travel to all the way to Spain to feel the rush of staring down an angry, snarling bull. Huamantla and its insanely dangerous festival is only a mere 100 miles east of Mexico City! The town itself is worth the trip: it’s one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos, known for its charm, architecture, and preservation of cultural traditions.
The Huamantlada (pronounced, wha mant lah dah) differs from the Pamplonada in one key way: here, individual streets are blocked off and bulls are released in each one to roam at will rather than running down one long route. Participating in the Huamantlada is not for the faint of heart. No, it’s a dangerous experience only recommended for anyone who is willing to risk life and limb. The pay-off? Nothing but bragging rights to having outrun 1,000 pounds of beefy muscle. Not to mention avoiding being gored by thrusting horns — sharp ones!
While most visitors prefer to observe the running of the bulls from a safe distance, you don’t have to. If you dare, join the crowd of young men (and some women, too) pressing up against the plywood fence that barely separates the bulls from the onlookers. Get your courage up, climb over, and take your chances.
The gate of the narrow, wooden cattle chute slides open and the bull emerges, wild-eyed and hopping mad. The crowd roars “Toro! Toro!” and quickly, the first challengers jump into the line of fire. Some wannabe toreadors wave squares of red cloth; others flap T-shirts or anything that might grab the bull’s attention. He charges and the mob scatters. Sometimes the bull wins easily and bodies somersault over the twisting horns, flipped about like rag dolls.
As you might imagine, many people who venture into the bulls’ path are drunk – they need that extra shot of tequila to put themselves into harm’s way.
Watch this video of the 2010 Huamantlada for a true picture of the danger that awaits the daredevils who have the cojones to provoke the wrath of Tlaxcala’s fiercest bulls. Injuries are common and sometimes serious. (WARNING: This video is graphic and definitely not for the squeamish.)
The event begins sharply at 12:00 noon on Saturday, August 20th, and lasts about one hour. But, you should arrive in the center of town no later than 10:00am to secure a prime seat.
Homeowners set up bleachers in front of their houses and charge for spectator seating (usually whatever experience tells them the market will bear). Prices range from 30-500 pesos (USD $3-50), with those at the higher end providing a better view, awnings, and more comfortable seating. As one local resident commented, “the higher the price, the safer you are.”
Getting There: From Mexico City TAPO bus terminal – ATAH bus line, 2-3 hours (depending on traffic), hourly departures, 140 pesos each way. Metro Line One, San Lazaro station
Accommodations: Hotel Centenario
Tourist Information: Huamantla