May 22, 2008

The Bull Fight...

It's one of those things that is typically Spanish -the bull fight. I decided that it was time to check one out, and with ticket prices listed as low as 4.40€ I figured it wouldn't hurt. I stepped out of the metro at Plaza de Torros - Las Ventas in front of a massive, round, brick building. Madrid's grand bull fighting ring -if you make it here, you make it the world over. It looked like something out of the Moorish period with the way the windows were shaped. It was incredibly impressive, and amazingly efficient. People marvel at how the Romans were so organized at the Colosseum, but now I can imagine how incredible it would've been. Throngs of people walking everywhere, shouting, smoking, people selling tickets, fans, snacks, and police here and there to make sure everything was alright. I bought a ticket about 15 minutes before the fight was to start, and walked up to the highest level of the building, to the second last row.
Despite being several stories up and far away from the actual ring I could hear the matador shout, and the bull ram into the horse's armour. The seats were concrete and delineated with lines. Each 'seat' was about 2 ft long and 1 ft wide. There are no aisles, and the people in the row above you have their feet at the back of your seat. For 1,20€ you can buy a relatively comfortable cushion (or bring your own), though I opted to sit on the concrete. Luckily nobody was sitting in front of me, so I had a bit of extra leg room.

The whole spectacle starts off with the different actors entering the ring, and walking around. The officials, the picadores, the matadors, the men who clean up the blood and smooth out the sand, and the horses and men who drag the bull away at the end -and they each get their applause. The fight starts with a horn, and a stunned looking bull that walks into the bull ring.

Half a dozen men with pink capes (only the matador uses red) wave and shout at the bull, making it charge at them. This is to work up the bull's adrenaline. The bull charges, and the men either run behind a wall, or play with the bull a bit. Next another horn blows, and two armoured and blindfolded horses come out. The bull eventually runs at one of the horses, there's a thud, and the bull is stabbed in the back. This obviously makes the bull angry. Soon the trumpets sound again, and the horses go back behind the walls. Next, several men will have the bull charge at them while the stab it with two long prong looking things (the ones that stay in the bulls back). Depending on how good they are, the crowd will either cheer or boo. The clip below is from the fight last night.

Another sound of the horn, and the main matador with a red cape walks into the ring. Everyone else leaves the ring; it's time for the real fight to begin. A hush falls over the crowd as the matador has the bull charge at him a few times. When the matador has the bull pass closely by his side in quick succession, the crowd shouts "Olé" or "Buen" each time the bull makes for the red cape. You can see a good succession of charges, and hear the crowd in the clip below.

After a while, everyone knows that it's time to end the fight. The matador takes his sword, and stares down the bull. A swift thrust to the back, and the sword should go deep into the bull, causing the bull to stagger around for a minute before falling over dead. If the matador hasn't made a good stab, then the crowd gets upset. They don't want the bull to suffer. The other men with pink capes come running out to get the bull to charge, stagger, once or twice before the fight has ended. If it has been a good fight, the crowd erupts in cheers, but if not there's only a mild applause. The matador gets to keep the ear of the bull as a prize.

Three horses are brought into the ring, to drag the bull away. It's usually used as meat, and sold in expensive dishes at expensive restaurants.
There are usually two bulls per matador, so the whole 'fight' can last around 2.5 hours depending on how many matadors there are. Of course the fight is before dinner (7 to 9 PM) so everyone snacks on candies, sausage, pork cubes, cheese, and alcohol.
While it may appear to be a bit bloody, it's not as barbaric as it may seem. The Spaniards tend to cheer for the bull, and get angry if the bull is teased too much or if the matador doesn't stab the bull properly and puts the bull into agony.


tim said...

I don't know why but I always cheer for the animals. Even when they have the Stampede Rodeo here I always cheer for the critters.

I just don't see the sport in these things. Maybe it's just me but every time I see rodeo, or bullfight, stories I want to go vegetarian.

Anonymous said...

ya...i can't imagine eating beef sausages at a bullfight

Stephen said...

Ya, the sausage eating was a bit weird.
I have met some Spaniards who aren't fond of the bull fights either, so you're not alone Tim.

tim said...

The one type of bull-tagging I don't mind watching and I'm actually cheering for the humans are those crazy guys trying to snag rings off the bulls horns!

I forget where that is done but those dudes are in need of therapy for their thrill issues! :)

It is strange to watch people take such chances but to each their own. Some skydive or climb steep cliffs without a safety rope or snowboard insane slopes.

I guess I'm just boring :) I'll play soccer, basketball or ultimate.