Lawyer Tries to Take Selfie With Pamplona Bull – It Didn’t End Well

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

Jaime Alvarez

The desire to have a selfie as a souvenir from running with the bulls in Spain turned into a near-death experience an American lawyer says he’ll never forget.

The bull ran over and gored San Francisco resident Jaime Alvarez in the neck during the first run of this year’s San Fermin festival in Pamplona, an event immortalized by writer Ernest Hemingway nearly a century ago.

“The joy and the excitement of being in the bullring quickly turned into a scare, into real fear for my life,” Alvarez, 46, said Monday at a regional hospital where he was recovering from surgery.

Doctors told Alvarez the bull’s horn went deep into his neck and fractured part of a cheekbone. That it didn’t hit the jugular vein or major arteries was described to the injured patient as “beyond miraculous.”

Alvarez, who works as a public defender in Santa Clara County, California, said he realized how severely he’d been hurt during his encounter with the bull on Sunday morning when he touched his neck and his hand came away covered with blood.

“In the course of a few seconds, a million thoughts came to my mind, and that of dying was definitely one of them,” he said.

Once it appeared certain he would live, the run-in brought rebukes from Alvarez’s wife and daughter. The three stopped in Pamplona to check out the famous San Fermin festival while en route to another city where the couple’s son was playing in a soccer tournament.

While his daughter and wife cautioned him against joining the crowd that would race the bulls, Alvarez said the energy in the streets of Pamplona on the festival’s opening day was too strong to resist.

Alvarez says he ran most of the 913-yard (850-meter) course ahead of the bulls. But by the time they entered the bullfighting plaza at the end, the pack of animals had caught up with him.

He said he climbed onto a fence for safety and returned to the arena only to shoot a short video when he thought that the danger had passed. He wanted “a 5-second video scene to say ‘Here I am, I did it.’”

That’s when the stray bull came at him running fast.

“The impact was unlike anything I’ve ever felt. It was like being hit by a car or a truck,” Alvarez said. “It was scary. I was really out of it, really stunned, I didn’t know what direction to go,” he recalled.

Someone grabbed Alvarez by the arm and pushed through the crowds to get to paramedics, possibly saving the American’s life.

His urgent surgery Sunday took 2½ hours but Alvarez says his stable condition means he could be discharged as soon as Tuesday. He has promised himself a return to Pamplona to enjoy the festival as a spectator, but not a bull racer.

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.


debbie marcotte - July 11, 2019 @ 16:46
It makes me sick that in this day and age this takes place serves you right at least you are not killed after the run!

Laura - July 11, 2019 @ 11:57
What a complete and total idiot!

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