Sunday, September 6, 2009
A lot has happened this weekend, but while it's still fresh in my mind, I'll update on my experience at the bullfight in Las Ventas. Overall, I really enjoyed the experience. Going in, I didn't know what to expect. I constantly heard of how brutal and cruel it was to the bulls and how dangerous it really was. While I see this point of view, there is a definite beauty in the sport. As I stepped into the plaza, I felt as though I was going back in time. The venue took me back to the day of bullfighting's roots with the traditional garb of 'los toreros' and the rest of the participants. The rows of granite seats brought me into the action instead of detracting from it, even though they were quite uncomfortable. Being in the third row helped grab my attention as well! The simplistic nature of the event was a breath of fresh air compared to the aesthetically pleasing sports games of America. The crowd was mostly composed of Spaniards, but the were quite a few tourists that were easy to pick out (like me!). The event was a series of six fights, with three toreros each taking on two bulls. The elegance and skill of each torero was made evident with their fluid motion, the sequence of actions that each round took, and the individuality and personal flair that they put into the routine. They played to the crowd, talked to the bull, and even through in a taste of their flamenco skills. The fights went in stages, as the bulls began by running around the arena multiple times, in order to slow them down. They were then lured to 'los picardores,' who were knights on horseback with a pike to stab the bull. After being stabbed, the bull would charge at the torero who would avoid his advances as he swooped a cape in front of it. The moments were used to learn the tendencies that each bull had; would it move left or right as it passed? How fast is it? How much room is there between me and the horns? The toreros would then use smaller pikes to stab into the back of the bull as it continued to pass. This is where the true flair that each man possessed came out. The beauty of technique and recklessness that their fearlessness conveyed brought each patron to the edge of their seat. Finally, after each sequential pass tired the bull more and more, the end of the event came. The torero would come so near the bull that he could touch it, pose twice with the sword, charge at the bull, and drive it through its back into its heart. The precision it took to do this was astounding. As the crowd cheered, the bull would teeter and fall. Three horses would then come and drag the bull out of the ring, and the next match would start. While it was bloody and not exactly something I would go to on a weekly basis, I felt as though I experienced, firsthand, what it was like to be a Spaniard. The knowledge and pride that the people, mostly older men, had in the sport made me feel like this was Spain's national pastime. Knowing I was foreign, they were willing to describe the action to me, why things happen the way they do, and what were characteristics of a skilled torero. At the end of the night, the attendees threw flowers and fans to the torero as a sign of appreciation for the night of action that anyone who visits Spain should experience.