Saturday, May 30, 2009


So after much ethical pondering, I decided despite the fact that I'm in disagreement with "los toros" or bullfights, I needed to go to a bullfight to truly experience the culture. It was either going to the soccer game or going to the bullfight and I could not be happier about my decision. It was awesome.

When we first got there, there are tons of vendors outside, mostly selling cold water and padded seats (never a good sign) but we bypassed all of them to try and find our seats. Of course being students we bought the cheaper tickets so everyone just kept pointing to keep going, keep going....I was completely okay with this because I didn't know how close I wanted to be to the blood and gore. However, once we came out, our seats were SO CLOSE. Tickets are sold based on whether you are in the shade or not, as well as if it's a professional or amateur bullfight. We were in the sun at a amateur fight so we only paid about 13 euros but we were amazingly close. Then I started to flip out a little realizing I'm about to watch a living animal be killed in a public place as my two friends, Ricky and Olivia, continue to discuss how excited they are to see the blood and guts and hope that one of the fighters gets mauled by the bull (I think they were kidding...?)

They do not waste any time getting it all started. We hear a gunshot and out of a side door comes an enormous bull. This was so sad to me because he didn't know what he was doing there or why all these men are trying to provoke him. Every single time he falls right into the trap though. :( But not without a fight! In a bullfight, there are 3 matadors who perform twice. Therefore, six bulls in total are killed. The matadors go in order from worst to best and the bigger and more aggressive bulls are left for the better matadors. When the bull first comes out, there are several men who are trying to provoke him and run out with a pink cape, wave it around and then run for their life for safety behind a little barrack. The entrance to the barracks are very small and I really thought several times that they wouldn't make it. One man had to forget about the barracks and just jumped into the crowd.

After these men are out with the bull for a couple of minutes, a blind folded and metal armored horse is led into the ring by a picador. When the bull gets close to the horse, the picador stabs the bull to get him to lower his head, making him more tired and an easier target for the final round with the matador. This is by far the worst part. The bull frequently goes straight for the horse and it was very hard for me to believe that the horse didn't get hurt. There was one time when the horse had just barely made it into the ring and the bull headed straight for him, knocking him off his feet. However, the horse is fully armored and the blood that I saw on the horse's armor was actually from the bull. But needless to say, it seems a little unfair for the horse to have to go into all of it blindfolded.

Then came the most dangerous part. Bullfighters get all of the credit but before he comes out, there are three men who risk their lives putting colorful daggers into the bulls neck. THEY HAVE NO PROTECTION. THEY HAVE NO CAPE. The bull charges right at them and they have to put these daggers into his neck. When I think about being next to a huge bull, I remember how scared I was of the monkeys in Gibraltar. These guys are fighting a bull who wants to kill them in the middle of a crowd of hundreds. That is brave.

And finally, the bullfighter. The techniques and footwork they use really makes it a dance between the bull and the matador. He doesn't hurt the bull until the last moment and until then, he impresses everyone by getting as close to the bull as possible and turning with the bull just close enough that he's not stabbed by the bull's horns. And then finally the killing of the bull. You know its coming because he goes to the side of the ring to get his "sword." At this point, the bull is tired. Sometimes one of the bulls would trip but mostly you could tell by how slow they were going. The matador pull the sword back like you would a bow and arrow and then when the bull charges, stab it right between shoulders. They have to get it all the way in or the bull suffers. The second matador was amazing at it. The bull was dead within two minutes. The third matador, who was supposed to be the best, was the worst. With both bulls he had to restab him, another man had to jab him behind the neck after he fell down and the bull still didn't die for another ten minutes. That was pretty horrible because you don't want the bull to suffer.

As far as the blood and guts, the bull is black but you can still see a good amount on this back from the "colorful daggers" that are jabbing into him. And once the bull dies, a clean up crew comes up to shovel up any blood mixed with dirt. However, on the whole, it is a very artistic show. It's not an event I would like to see on a regular basis (some people go every week; its like the steeplechase for Spaniards every week) but I was very glad I went. Bullfights are not for the faint-hearted. If Andrea went, she would've left, been crying or throwing up. Scarred, for sure.

The argument for "los toros" is that it's historical, the bulls live a great life until they're killed, if bull fighting was abolished then the bulls wouldn't really have an option of a life in the wild and in the end, the entire bull is used for their meat, etc. On the other hand, the bulls are tortured and it makes the Spaniards seem very barbaric. My main problem was there are these perfectly healthy and strong bulls running into the ring and then 15 minutes later, they're dead and being carted out. Seems a little disrespectful to nature and the order of balance between man and animal. But then again, I'm not a vegetarian.


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