My wife hates hearing this story. Any mother would.
But truth be told, last July when I took my twin son, Jordan, 13, to Spain, every morning at 8 we would watch on Spanish television the colorful “Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona, Navarra, made famous in two Ernest Hemingway books, The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon. Jordan read the latter.
We stayed in a sun-drenched dormitory, connected with the University of New Orleans, called “Colegio Metropolitano” as part of my research on expatriate writers in Madrid and Paris. This particular school on the hill was bombed by Fascist strongman, General Francisco Franco, during the Spanish Civil War because it was thought to have been a stronghold for the democratically elected “Republicans.”
Today, it’s home to hundreds of Spanish and “American” students. They come from South America, Central America, North America and the Caribbean. One student named Jamie Bernstein went to Pamplona?#34;the capital of the beautiful northern province called Navarra?#34;drank red wine and Coca-Cola, an obnoxious drink called “Calimocha” that no one over 25 can stomach, and then ran with the bulls.
Jamie came through unscathed. Others did not. According to the mayor of Pamplona, Yolanda Bercina, who recently visited Oak Park, hosted by the local Hemingway Foundation, said more than 250 people were injured last year at the event where adventuresome people dressed in trademark white outfits and red scarves run down a narrow 400-meter-long street that leads to the bullring chased by a dozen angry bulls. Jamie told vivid tales of hangovers and hanging out.
Anyway, Jordan was so fascinated by the whole ordeal, he told me that when he’s 18, just before he and his brother go away to college in Europe, “I’m going to take Amman with me to drink Calimochos all night, sleep in the park and run with the bulls the next day.” Since he obviously knows it’s against the law here or there for teens to drink, I tried to ignore him, thinking it might fade. If a parent leans too hard on a kid telling them not to do something, it makes them really want to do it. I told that story to Hemingway Museum curator Redd Griffin and then to Allen Josephs, a noted Hemingway scholar who was on a panel with Ernest’s son, Patrick; Mayor Barcina; and Griffin at a lovely May 19 event at the museum called “Hemingway & Navarra.” Josephs smiled hearing the Jordan story.
Over sips of ruby red Navarra wine, we also talked about Hemingway and Langston Hughes. Hughes, who visited Oak Park, also visited Hemingway in Spain. While staying at Hemingway’s Madrid place at Hotel La Florida on Calle La Florida, Hughes translated the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca, an anti-Fascist gay poet who was killed in 1936 by pro-Franco Fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War. Josephs reminded me Lorca was killed near Granada and not Sevilla where Jordan and I visited last year. I reminded him about how Hughes had invited Lorca to visit Harlem.
“Lorca felt at home in Harlem where blacks there reminded him so much of the Gypsies back home in Andalusia,” Josephs said. This is confirmed by Hughes scholar, Cranston Knight, who wrote La Brigada, a book about the black presence during the Spanish Civil War.
If you’re interested in the story of Jordan and I roaming through Spain, my “Soul of Spain” essay is part of a new anthology titled Vacations: The Good, the Bad & The Ugly (Outrider Press, 2006). The essay details how Jordan and I went to Sevilla to find the soul of Spain in six hours?and discovered it. Jordan, who has been in Spanish Immersion programs in District 97 for seven years, loved how the Gypsies, Muslims, Christians and Jews in Andalusia live in peace as they have for hundreds of years.
Since the U.S. Congress has tried to pass an English-only law, he and I will read only in English at the Printer’s Row Book Fair, Saturday, June 3, National Writer’s Union table, and Sunday, June 4, Tall Grass Writer’s Guild table as well as at the Soweto West Press table at A Day in Our Village that same day. We’d hate to anger xenophobes who are trying to make it illegal for people in this land of mostly descendants of immigrants to speak anything other than English.
If you see Jordan at the reading, please don’t encourage him to run with the bulls in Pamplona?#34;and please don’t run with the bull Congress is trying to shovel on us here.