Sunday, December 9, 2007
Corrida de Toros (The Bullfight)!
My cute husband and I traveled to a little suburb of a Mexican city to take in a much publicized and heralded bull fight. The setting was lovely, the air was crisp with small bits of rain and the company we were with were knowledgeable about bullfights - two couples were from Mexico and another couple from Canada.
I must admit that I was nervous to attend; as one who cringes at rodeos when the calves are thrown to the ground I packed an entire roll of toilet paper just to wipe my tears! Yet, in the spirit of "Viva Mexico!" We decided to experience one of the areas oldest traditions...
As we were entering the arena we picked up red carnations and white handkerchiefs that were being handed out - "To honor your favorite bullfighter", was the explanation. We passed some blindfolded horses with thick, quilted, bright yellow padding on every part of their body - "Those are the horses for the picadores", we were told. Then we joined the throng squeezing through the doors and walked into the arena. The arena we attended, 'Provincia Juriquilla', is noted to be one of the most beautiful arenas in the country and it was picturesque! The seating was cement benches that wrapped around the entire arena! The feeling in the air was jovial and contagious... we were looking forward to learning a bit more about Mexico!
We quickly learned why the people were so jovial as we passed a group of men while looking for our seats - they held up a type of skin canteen and called for me to open my mouth! "GRACIAS, PERO NO!" I said, wondering what I missed out on... later I found that each satchel was filled with either 'vino' or 'cervezas' (wine or beer)! Ergo the already jovial atmosphere!
First the bullfighters came out into the ring with pomp and circumstance - we would be seeing three fighters and six bulls that night! (My first learning experience... I thought I only had to make it through one bull!) Two were famous fighters from Mexico and the other was a famous fighter from Spain - "Jose Tomas"! Then a man enters the ring with a placard that states the name and weight of the bull! Then enters the bull... and they are huge! Each bull weighed about 500 kilos or 1,100 lbs! Yes, did I say huge? At this point novice bullfighters would enter the ring with bright colored capotes (capes) and the bull would charge them and then they would run behind large wooden shields that protected the entrances to the ring. This practice is for the matador to see the aim, speed and agility of the bull. Then the matador comes out and spars with the bull. Afterward the picadores on horses enter the ring and stab the bull in the back near the shoulder blades. I learned that if this is not done properly it can affect the fight - we saw two bulls lambaste two horses and throw them to the ground and another picadore did not succeed in stabbing the bull and was dismissed by the judges bugler horn and another picador completed that segment of the fight. (All of these occurrences can effect the outcome of the bull fight!) Then three picadores on foot run at the bull while the bull charges them and they place, by hand!, two more pics each in the bull. (Those are the long, decorated lances that pierce the bull and are often pictured when a bull fight is reported or advertised.) Finally, the matador comes out and spars with the bull for a period of time with a colorful capote. After he has sufficiently displayed his abilities to control the bull - to each act of control the crowd shouts, "OLE!"; the matador will then change swords and don the red capote and throw his hat to the floor of the ring; thus signaling that the time to spar is over and it is now onward to the death of the bull.
After a few more passes with the bull the matador stabs a long, curved sword into the shoulder blade area of the bull and then two other novices enter the ring... as the bull charges and reacts to the capotes being waved at him the sword basically dissects his muscles and renders the bull unable to move any longer. At this point the bull collapses and another person comes in and puts the bull out of his misery by stabbing a dagger through his forehead into his brain. The matador is then awarded for his performance - one ear, two ears or two ears and a tail depending on the level of the performance and the manner in which the bull died. After the awarding of these items the bull is then hitched up to a Clydesdale horse and dragged out of the arena. The matador then walks around the entire arena and spectators throw their flowers (or coats, hats, shoes, purses, etc. to the matador and he in turn throws them back - as good luck) and they wave their white handkerchiefs to salute their favorite matador!
The bullfight we attended was quite an experience - we saw two horses go down (pictured), one picadore get thrown to the wall by a bull, a matador get thrown about six feet into the air by a bull (pictured is him being carried out by numerous men... and he came back to fight again!), and we saw what the crowd described as 'the perfect hit' meaning that the bull's death would be more quick and with less pain. We learned of the rules and regulations that surround the fanfare and the tradition - but above all I was impressed with the silence of the crowd when the moment of death was imminent. There was a silence that I chose to believe was a silence of gratitude for the bull and the event taking place. After the fights we were informed that the meat from the bulls are given to charities in the area.
I did not need one square of paper to wipe my eyes (which was a shocker to me!)... but I did feel that I had experienced enough of the 'sport' or 'art' of bullfighting to form my own opinion. The conquest of man over animal was a sight to behold... yet, I can't help but wonder if that is the manner in which we are to treat animals. I can't imagine heaven looks upon us paying to watch the suffering and death of animals with favor. For me it is a once in a lifetime moment that I am grateful I experienced yet I left with a conscience troubled as I reflected on my own shouts of "Ole!" while I saw an innocent creature die for my entertainment. Although many colors and art surround this tradition in the end it is the conquest of man over animal at the heart of the event.