“Bulls” ran down the city’s streets Saturday, chasing locals garbed in white with splashes of red, whether as a sash around the waist or a delicate red flower in the hair.
The unusual sight was part of a festival celebrating the area’s Spanish heritage. And, of course, they weren’t real bulls like the famous annual event held in Pamplona, Spain, but rather local folks dressed as bulls.
The bulls ran after their neighbors, providing an adrenaline-filled start of the second day of the New Iberia Spanish Festival. Those caught were given a sticker that read, “I got gored.”
The festival is a three-day celebration of the community’s Spanish beginnings in an Acadiana region where French is the dominant culture.
“It’s bringing (it to) life for my children and my grandchildren in relation to their culture,” said Catherine Segura, one of the executive members of La Asociacion Espanola de Nueva Iberia. “Many of them thought they were French, but they come from the founding fathers who are from Spain. It’s a cultural reawakening and an education for our children and our community.”
Now in its fourth year, the festival’s theme this year was “Celebrating Spanish Painters and Their Works.”
This year, the festival crowned its first queens in different age groups.
It was nerve-wracking to compete, said Paige Whipp, who was crowned the first Miss Spanish Festival. But, she said, it’s something she wanted to do because she loves the Spanish festival.
“It’s something that is unique to Louisiana,” Whipp said. “Without the Spanish, the Acadians would have never been here. They’re the ones who allowed the Acadians to settle here. So I just wanted to show the world this different community and this different culture.”
After the running of the bulls, there was a short re-enactment of the Spanish arrival on the Bayou Teche before the paella and tapas cook-off began. The spices from the paella dishes drifted around the mariachi bands who played onstage, as well as around other parts of the festival that was held this year in Bouligny Plaza.
Gail Boudreaux, whose heritage is half-French and half-Spanish, said the mariachi bands were her favorite part.
“The Spanish festival is really nice because that side of our heritage has been too dormant for too many years,” Boudreaux said.
The festivities will conclude Sunday morning with a traditional Catholic Mass of thanksgiving in honor of New Iberia’s Spanish founding families.
“At the end, the Mass of Thanksgiving brings to us something that should have been done a long time ago — thanking God, thanking the community and having everyone realize how fortunate we are to have the culture and the ancestors we have,” Segura said.