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Published: October 9th 2008
Since Ronnie is much braver than I, he went to a bullfight and I did not. Since I think this is such a neat cultural experience, I am handing this blog over to Ronnie to write for this entry. Enjoy! -JB
"Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honor." - Ernest Hemingway
A guest blog entry by Ronnie:
“It’s so cruel.”
“The poor animal.”
Inevitably I would receive a response like this when I mentioned that I wanted to see a bullfight while in Mexico. Are those things true? Probably, but I wanted to see one anyway.
A little known fact (or at least not known by me until recently) is that on the rare chance a bull does win the fight, he is put out to pasture as a stud for the rest of his life. Better odds than a slaughterhouse, no?
Now, I am not defending bullfighting. I don’t even care to have the argument.
So, here’s the narrative:
Julie had no interest, nor
the stomach, to attend a bullfight. Mitch, Julie’s stepfather, had a comparable curiosity as I in going to a fight while here. Julie, along with her mom Alice and Grandmother Shirley, went to a movie instead.
Mitch and I arrive. We hold pesos out. I ask for seats in the shade. She tells us in Spanish that we don’t have enough money.
I respond in English, “No, seats in the shade.”
To which she again informs me that there is not enough money in our hand.
“No sun, “I say.
We go round like this for a few minutes until it dawns on me that she is not battling my shade preference, but is asking for more money.
“Ahhh, lo siento. Cuanto cuesta no sol?”
Thirty bucks!? We get tickets in the sun for half that. The day ends up being overcast and it doesn’t matter.
We arrived ten minutes before the fight was scheduled to begin and the stadium is empty. We sit in remarkably good seats, a few feet from the ring, and drink some beers. The day is cool. There are a handful of other gringos in the stadium
and no one else.
Within the bull ring men mark a circle using a wide chalk shaker tied to a center post. The circle is about 30 feet in diameter. I Tell Mitch I imagine they got a better score if they stay within that circle. I still don’t know if that is true. If there is a score or performance record besides the yelling of the crowd I still have not learned.
We talk about James Bond, photography and San Miguel. I order another beer. The lady has no change for my bill. She tells me to take it. Free beer!
I sit back down. A band has begun to set up around us. We have been there for forty minutes. The stands are filling up with Mexicans. The crowd consists of families and single women, wearing a lot of make up and holding parasols. The matadors are below us practicing or getting ready. One of them twirls a cape on the sidelines. Another is young and nervous. They have very tight pants. The parasol women eye them like candy.
The band strikes up a sort of marching song. One by one the matadors enter,
as well as the banderillero and the picador on horseback. The horses are blindfolded. Everyone cheers. I enjoy the spectacle of the thing.
I say matador and banderillero but know nothing about bull fighting or its terminology. Later I say pirouette when I should say veronica. I am sure that kind of thing happens a lot in this entry.
The fight begins. The bull charges into the ring at full speed. Five men with capes vie for his attention. Once this is achieved the bull charges at the matador. Dust sprays into the air. As fast as he can, the matador dives behind a wooden barrier. The bull hits it and wood chips erupt. Not long after, the animal is again drawn to charge. More dust. More Splinters.
Then the horse is there. The bull advances on the equine, burying its horns in the padding (and more I imagine) along the edge of the animal. The horse squeals. The bull begins to calm down. The padding is new. The horses were always killed before it.
Again the capes are waved. The barriers. Less dust. Fewer Splinters. The bull is tired now. One of the men discards
his cape. He returns with a large barbed dart in each hand. The others still distract the bull. The spearman waits for the moment. He is a snake. In a burst of speed he charges the bull. He plunges both darts into the animal’s back. The bull howls. It charges the man. He runs hard. The other matador’s flail their capes. The bull is eventually distracted and the man is safe. This, to me, was the most dangerous part. For the man I mean.
The spear thing happens two or three more times. The spears are green and white. When the spears are in the bull the blood of the animal turns the white portions half-red. With the green they produce the colors of Mexico. Brilliant.
The bull is now exhausted. There is one man in the ring. His cape is smaller. He twirls it and snaps it in the air. He tries to get the bull to see him and charge. When the beast advances the matador pirouettes to safety. The closer the bull comes with his charge the louder the crowd yells.
He does this again and again each time trying to bring the
bull closer and closer. He leaves his back open to it. He proves he has dominated the beast.
This goes on.
At the end the matador in the ring, the man with the small cape, gets a sword from the sideline. He waits again. Again a viper. When he strikes he plunges the sword between the animal’s shoulder blades. It howls and stamps and screams. There is a last burst of energy. Another charge. A death throw.
The bull stumbles. It falls. The crowd cheers. Another man comes into the ring with a knife. His cut is brutal and fast and to the throat. The bull dies dripping pools of blood into the sand.
The victorious matador raises his arms to the sky. The band plays. The spectators holler. The bull is dragged out lashed to a pair of horses.
The other matadors enter the ring. They take their places by the barriers. The gates are open and a bull charges in. And so on. Twice more.
I am very glad I went. I most likely will not attend another.
“Bullfights. Bull hockey. Do you like this? The bull is stabbed, prodded, beaten. The bull is wounded. The bull is tired before the matador ever steps into the ring. Now, is that victory? Of course it is.” -Johnny Depp, Once Upon a Time in Mexico
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