Sunday night, 8 of us attended a bull fight. I was extremely hesitant to go. I’ve heard it’s gruesome and gory and blood filled and I am not fond of those situations. However, it wasn’t as eye-covering as I had expected.
Brandi’s guide to bull fights: how to prepare, follow along, and a simplified background
Congrats! You’ve decided to embrace Spanish culture and attend a bull fight. When you go to buy your tickets, SIT IN THE SHADE. I cannot stress that enough. For the past week and a half, the temperatures have been hovering around 100 degrees. There’s no A/C and the heat is miserable. Loose fitting clothing is key! When you enter Plaza de Toros, you can rent a seat cushion for 1.20€. Do it. You’ll be sitting in an arena that’s basically stone bleacher seating, watching 6 bull fights that were about 45 minutes each. There isn’t a real set time limit but that’s how long ours were at most. The really skilled matadors kill the bull quickly.
The ticket purchase button is clicked. You receive that confirmation email and you begin to experience buyer’s remorse. Oh my god, did I really just buy bull fighting tickets? Does that mean I support this stuff? But i just want to embrace the culture! I won’t stay for all of it. They get worse as the fight progresses…*shudder shudder* You will be OK!
In English, we call it bull fighting. But in Spanish, it’s corrida de torros, translating to running of bulls. There are 3 matadors (torrero in Spanish) and each kills 2 bulls. Matadors have a team (la cuadrilla) composed of 2 picadores (men on horseback to poke the bull and shock it to keep its blood thin), 3 banderilleros (men who stab spears with a flag into the bull) and a mozo de espadas (the sword man). Matadors can be identified by their gold embroidery, where as the less skilled matadors wear silver. The corrida is broken down into thirds, with each start beginning with a bugle sound.
The first third is like a warm-up. This is when the matador gets to know the bull and see how it reacts. He uses a pink cape, a capote, to test out the animal. The picadores enter soon after and shock the bull. This would cause the bull to RAM its horns into the horse. The horse is heavily padded and protected. The first time this happened I was shocked! I watched the bull literally lift up the horse AND THE MAN partially off the ground. The bull’s blood would stain the horse’s armor and the picador’s socks.
The second third involves the banderilleros. They each have 2 banderillas to stab into the bulls shoulders. If it doesn’t stick the first time, they can try again, but if a banderilla falls off, it’s not placed back on. The banderillas are used to weaken the bull and tire it out.
The final third is what we think of when bull fighting comes to mind: a matador with a red cape. The red is intended to mask the bull’s blood and not to anger the bull. They’re actually colorblind! The matador continues to wear out the bull and put it in a position to kill it. The matador uses his sword, el estoque, to stab the bull between his shoulders. The matador first has a fake sword which is used for entertainment purposes and switches to a real sword for the final kill of the bull.
The first 4 bull fights were not unbearable to watch. I cringed when I saw it get stabbed, and when the bull would ram the horse and picador. But the worst of them all was the 5th bull. I don’t want to be too graphic on you but this bull is what I expected all 6 of them to be. At many points, the blood would squirt out like water from a fountain. I was sitting between two friends and hid in their shoulders for a bit, or watched from behind my hands. The bull also managed to break its own ankle. It was devastating to watch. It struggled to walk, was in such pain, and the matador wouldn’t kill the bull fast enough to release it. The crowd boo’ed the matador and we all struggled to watch. My friend and I thought that the timing of the bugles was sped up to accommodate the situation.
The arena was no where near full and many people left halfway. There is no announcer nor music other than the introduction and the bugle. People will boo and cheer but it wasn’t too noisy overall. I felt that the audience was mostly tourists and we were all in too shock to say much. We stayed for all 6 bulls, which is way more than I had imagined. I’m proud of myself for staying and for also not getting queasy. I experienced a huge part of Spanish culture and I’m glad I acquiesced into going. Would I go again? No. Do I think it’s something everyone needs to experience in Spain? No. Soccer game or bull fight? Go to a soccer game, it’s more present culture.