Cue Mariachi music……… Its bullfighting season in Spain, and though it cost us 30 Euros, its a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience Spain through the Corrida de Toros. Personally, I felt a bit sick halfway seeing those bulls get gored and was really happy when the killing blow was dealt. Right or wrong, its not for me to judge, because I still eat battery chicken, their eggs and enclosure bred pork. It would be hypocritical for me to judge. Furthermore, I enjoyed sharing the atmosphere and experience with hundreds of Spaniards and Latin Americans who grew up with Bullfighting as part of their country’s tradition.
It was a Sunday fight in Monovar, the biggest event of the year (It is a tiny town…), and Monovar’s Plaza de Toros was mercifully at our doorstep. Waking up from the traditional ‘siesta’, we trudged our way down the road, praying for the clouds to hold the rain till we were finished.
Earlier in the afternoon, we checked out the trucks that brought the bulls in, and we could hear them from outside the menacing gates. We were told that the bulls came from the most highly regarded stable in Spain and the bulls were prepared all their lives for this glorious moment. They were not tortured or abused at all, but treated with reverence. Which self respecting Matador would want to fight a weakened bull?
The crowd were really up for it and as it always happens, we sat next to these two crazy guys who spent the opening minutes confusing Spiderman with Superman.
We called them ‘Los Locos’, shared a few laughs with them and in exchange, they gave us some Morcilla (Cured blood sausage), bread and cheese. The kindness of strangers in small towns never ceases to amaze me….and they were not even drinking! As usual in Spain, the Morcilla was absolutely fantastic with only the slightest iron-y hint of blood. Deeelish!
The procession marks the beginning of the Corrida de Toros, as the marching band leads the participants into the ring to meet and greet the audience and the Bullfight’s elected President. I will attempt to explain what goes on in a bullfight from Wiki.
Enter El Picadores, guys carrying lances on horseback.
The 3 Banderilleros or Flagmen doing some kind of ritualistic flag ceremony. These guys are like Rodeo clowns in America whose purpose is to distract the bulls should anything go wrong so the matadors can run away to safety.
Apparently, the Picadore has the duty of piercing the back muscles to weaken the bull. The bull’s ferociousness is also dampened by the energy it uses from trying to attack and lift up the horse.
These horses are huge and can withstand a charge from a bull at full pace. Of course, they are wearing armour and are blindfolded, but isn’t it interesting that back in the day, they were ‘naked’ and were often disemboweled by the bull?
The three guys with flags are up next and they will attempt to each plant 2 barbed sticks (Banderillas) into the bull around the same area as the Picador’s stab.
The increased tissue damage and loss of blood weakens it further. The pointed end of the Banderilla is as long as a middle finger and has huge barbs designed to cling onto the bull after penetration.
As the bull runs about, the Banderilla bounce around, causing more damage and more pain. When we saw these Banderillas being sold at a souvenir stall outside, we felt a tinge of guilt and sympathy for the bull.
The matador then enters the ring and with the cape as a distraction, entertains the crowd by demonstrating his ability to control the bull. This is where the Matador gets to show off his skills and one particularly flamboyant one (The guy in black in previous pictures) even went down on his knees to fight the bull.
Such displays of courage (Or blatant stupidity) are much appreciated by the crowd. It was really exhilarating an exciting, more so as we were rooting for the bull.
This is the moment everyone has been waiting for as the Matador positions the bull into the killing position
However, things do not always go as planned as this bull had other ideas regarding his mortality.
The Matador takes the fall of shame and any merit from heroics displayed up till this point disintegrate in a moment’s folly. This plucky bull actually survived the sword being plunged right through its shoulder and ran around the ring chasing the Matador and Banderilleros with the sword in it. Apparently, the sword missed the heart and it was finally cornered and dispatched with no honour from the Matador’s part.
Another bull, another Matador and the mind games have started once again between man and beast
Bulls are colourblind, and its not red that pisses them off, but rather the movement that gets their attention. Note how its head is bent downwards as it watches the cape. The Matador gingerly shuffles up to the bull to get into position. At this point, the bull is too tired and injured to charge randomly.
A sharp flick of the wrist lures the bull into charging the cape and the Matador is poised for the fatal stab.
Note the blood gushing forth from the wound as the knife enters the bull’s back cleanly, probably severing an aorta and eventually piercing into the heart.
The momentum of the attack carries on after the fatal blow, as the bull still continues to chase the Matador, unaware that his fate has been sealed.
Just like in the movies, the bull comes to a standstill as silence falls on the stadium. With a grunt, it lowers its head in defeat and slumps to the ground. Despite this grim conclusion, the audience appreciates that the bull has fought with bravery and honour.
The ear of the bull is then cut off and given to the Matador, if the performance has been worthy of such a prize
Horses than drag the bull away to the back, where who knows what happens to it. If the cliche serves true, some lucky guy is gonna feast on bull’s testicles that night. We left before the last bull made its appearance as that was all we could take.
It is a gruesome sport, but it is also a beautiful one that pits man against beast in a game of death. Many a bullfighter has been killed bulls as a mistimed killing stroke ends with the horns puncturing the artery in the Matador’s leg. Once, we saw a Matador get gored on TV and though badly injured and splattered with blood, he faced the bull bravely and killed it before collapsing.
It was a disturbing sight, but it was a fine display of bravery which sums up the essence of the bull fight. We have to face our fears head on and never give up regardless of what may happen. As long as we are not dealt a fatal blow, we have to pick ourselves up and continue the fight. Thats what I took away from this, another one of life’s lessons.
Would have also loved to have known which restaurant those testicles were heading to……….