Monday, January 30, 2012

Bullfighting in Spain

El Toro
SEVILLE, SPAIN I love everything about Spain, and dare I admit, even the bull fight I saw in Seville. Although, without question, it should have filled me with disgust, I was intrigued by the life and death struggle between a magnificent beast and a artful matador. To be sure, the bulls die and not since 1992 has a matador died, but the possibility, as I quickly came to learn, is always present. The three matadors, between the ages of 17 and 19, each had twenty minutes to kill two of six bulls. The first bull, pitch black and massively muscular, burst out of the gate, looking for something to charge. The matador's three banderilleros, stationed at different spots around the ring, shouted and waved their red capes. The bull charged one, who quickly took cover behind a protective fence, then a second, and then the third. The third banderillero stumbled before he reached the protective fence, but quickly picked himself up, and flipped himself over the five-foot wooden wall surrounding the ring, as the bull, not a second later, came crashing into the boards. The banderilleros' role was to tire the bull by teasing him into attacking them, then sticking him in the back with colorful flags, that caused blood to pour from the majestic animal's back.

Once properly conditioned, the matador, to the cheers of the audience, began applying his artful trade, by waving his cape, in close to his side, so that the charging bull would come within a whisker of his slender body. For the first matador, the first couple turns went fine, but then the bull made a quick sharp turn before the matador could get into position, and to the stunned "ohs" and "ahs" of the audience flipped the matador over his back, and started goring him. I thought the matador was done for, but the banderilleros, shouting and waving their capes, quickly distracted the bull and, surprisingly, the young matador, his colorful suit now covered in blood, picked himself up and resumed the battle. The bull knocked the poor fellow down three more times, goring him to the point where I was sure he was permanently injured, but every time the young man recovered his composure. The fight continued until it was time for the kill. A band of musicians in the stands heralded the bull's approaching doom with a triumphant blast. The matador, retreated to the side of the ring and came back with a thin sword about three feet long.

With the sword behind his back, the matador took a few more turns at the bull, who was now clearly tiring, pausing each time before he attacked. The bull, head down, ready to charge, and the matador, with his sword outstretched, squared off for the final time. The bull charged. The matador leaped into the air and thrust the sword deep into the bull's back. Stunned, the bull stopped in his tracks, wavered, then stumbled onto his front knees, where he waited, trying, presumably, to regain his strength. In an effort to get the bull to drop to all fours, the banderilleros waved their capes, frantically, but somehow, the bull found the strength instead to erect himself. Back on all fours, he stood there as the banderilleros shouted and waved their capes. The bull persisted, unwilling to succumb. Under the weight of his body, the front two legs were again the first to go, and then his back two legs. As the bull rested on his knees, a banderillero pulled the sword from the bull's back, handed it to the matador, pulled out another, much smaller, sword and gave the bull a quick jab to the back of the head. The bull rolled over, the band played, the matador took his bows, and the audience cheered. A team of horses dragged the bull out of the ring. The next five fights proceeded in more or less the same way.