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The Bull Fight


After much debate as to whether to post anything about it, I´ve decided to write about our experiences at a bullfight. I am a little worried about people who might be offended that we even went to a bullfight, much less write about it, but this is part of our experience and so I am going to write about it. If you sense you might be offended, then I have two points: now might be a good time to stop reading, and also, as I don´t support bullfights, I won´t be going on about how fun or great it was.

Anyhow, we felt that going to a bullfight would be an important cultural event, as we are in Spain and this definitely a part of the culture here, like it or not. We purchased the cheapest tickets, and were at the stadium early to find our seats. I knew that the fights were of a lethal nature to the bulls, and possibly the humans as well, but I didn´t know much more about it. To give a quick synapsis of the fights (there were six of them), first there are a group of six or so fellows that wait for the bull to come rushing out. When the bull enters the arena, he is obviously angry and aggressive. So these guys use their capes to have him charge, and they see how close they can get to his horns without injuring themselves. This short segment is followed by guys on horses (all of these have names, I just don´t which ones are which, except for the obvious matadors). The guys have lances, and they provoke the bull to charge the heavily insulated horses, at which point they use the lances to drive off the bull--the first blood. This is followed by the next segment, probably the most distressing, when a couple of the guys on the ground trade their capes for short blades, which they stick into the back of the bull as he charges them. This is both very dangerous for those guys, and injurious to the bulls. Finally, the matador comes out, and after having multiple passes under his cape, in which he tries to elicit a response from the crowd by having the bull pass incredibly close, he uses a long sword that he drives into the bull´s heart, and the fight is over in as short as six seconds.

That is the short version, however, and clearly is a clean version of a dangerous, violent, and disturbing fight to the death. Theoretically the matadors will have a clean kill, but that isn´t always the case, which is a very disturbing event. Then there is the idea that this is a ¨blood sport,¨which is untrue in definition--there is nothing sporting about it. The odds are heavily stacked in favor of the men, which is natural; no one would want to get into an arena where the chances were quite high that they could be gored or killed. Even as it is, the bull weighs well over 1000 pounds and is impressive fast and powerful; one mistake could easily lead to a meeting of flesh against the razor sharp horns, which could be the end of a career or of a life. But it seems very unfair that there are up to eight men on foot or horse against the one bull, injuring and tiring it in a way that by the time the pompous matador walks into the arena, he is facing a very weakened bull. A more equal field might have the bull facing fewer men, and facing the matador when he is fresh and angry and above all, healthy.

At any rate, there are a dramatic range of emotions that occur in the bullfight. I found myself repulsed, especially in the beginning, first by the failure of a ¨clean¨kill and then by the cheers of the crowd around me. I found that I was cheering for the bulls, hoping that they might take down their opponents and perhaps live for another day; indeed, one of the matadors, facing a very weak bull, became so arrogant that he walked right up on the bull, and stood inches from its horns while looking up into the crowd. The bull suddenly came to life and flung him around a good bit, and Jess and I both cheered heartily, at least once it was clear that the matador only suffered a bruised ego. There is sadness at the demise of the bull, a massive, powerful creature that seems too strong to be brought down. There is relief that the meat isn´t wasted, but given to charity. There is anxiety and excitement when a matador or picador comes a little too close to the horns and looks as though a good goring is coming their way. There is certainly a degree of anger that people, of much greater intellect, taunt an animal that flies at them in such furious, instinctual (as well as inefficient) way, that the beast can´t seem to figure out that it would be better to ignore the cape and target the thin, sequined figures of the fighters. Finally, there is relief, after the fight, when the bull has died, and you know that the suffering has ended, especially when the sword meets its mark and the bull dies very quickly.

 The Bullfight

From an American perspective, this sort of event can be seen very much as a savage, barbaric, and inhumane. Yet we have a skewed view on this sort of thing. We watched the fight with a couple of Australians who we met in our hostel, and as the guy said, this is simply a different way of killing the animal, perhaps a longer way but not necessarily a more inhumane way. We buy a juicy steak from the market, and yet we don´t think about where that meat came from, or the methods used to produce it; we couldn´t or we would lose our appetites. I would think that these bulls, given their size and ferocity, lived better and more free lives than most livestock we consume. Besides, there are hundreds if not thousands of years built into this tradition, and Jess and I try very hard not to judge the cultures of other people, even the parts of those cultures that we find distasteful or disturbing. What it is to those people has much more meaning to them than to us, and believe me, there is plenty about American or Western culture that people around the world find very disturbing.

It gave us much to think about after the fight; we were in definite need of a beer. I don´t know if any of the four of us enjoyed watching the fight; you have to wonder about the mental state of a person who enjoys watching the demise of an animal. On the other hand, it was part of the cultural experience. I am betting that we can count on having additional cultural experiences and encounters that will ruffle our feathers. That is part of exploring outside the comfort zone we build around ourselves. That is part of exploring in general.

Until next time, be safe.



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great photos, loved the El Greco:) i appreciate how much thought u put into the bull "fight", reads like an OP-ED piece

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