The Peñas of San Fermín

The Peñas of San Fermín

Part of what makes the Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain so magical is the live music that fills the air in the Old City, seemingly all day and all night. This music comes from the brass bands of each of the city's sixteen social groups, called peñas, and they are responsible for providing the music of this world-famous street party.

The origins of the peñas trace back to the late 19th century when groups of friends and neighbors began gathering in local taverns and cafes to share stories, laughter, and good company. These informal gatherings soon evolved into organized social clubs, known as peñas, each with its unique identity and traditions. The first officially recognized peña of Pamplona, called "La Única," was founded in 1903. 

Similar to the Mardi Gras Krewes of New Orleans, peñas charge an annual membership fee in exchange for access to dozens of events throughout the year - from bar socials to dinners, sports games, and parades. Locals tend to stay in the same peña that their parents or grandparents were in, but others choose to join the local peñas of their neighborhood, or barrio. 

Each peña has its distinct character and customs, ranging from traditional to modern, reflecting the diversity of Pamplona's population. Some peñas focus on preserving age-old traditions, such as Basque music, dance, and cuisine, while others embrace contemporary trends and artistic expression. During the Running of the Bulls festival, members of peñas affirm their allegiance to a particular social group by wearing a pañuelo, or handkerchief, around their neck with their peña's unique coat of arms.

Some of the peña songs that you'll hear in Pamplona this July are local originals like "Los de La Única" and "Alegria de Iruña," pop favorites like "La Chica Ye-Ye," and interpretations of Mexican Ranchera songs like "El Rey."

Peñas are truly the essence of the Running of the Bulls festival and the heart of the culture and community of Pamplona. If you'd like to experience the energy of the peñas in all their glory, book Sun Side bullfight tickets through BullBalcony.

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