This post contains graphic descriptions, photographs, video and verbiage of a Bullfight in Madrid, Spain.
We have elected to take the Metro (Subway System) from near our hotel to the Bull Ring, probably no more than 10-15 minute ride. I have to say that the subway system here in Madrid, was extremely clean, friendly and safe.
In fact I was joking about the safeness of it. While on the train, a panhandler, a musician joined us and played a bit for money, then at the next stop moved on to the next car. Now in New York you probably wouldn’t see a musician, but a mugger. It was very pleasant, clean and fast. The metro stop was directly in front of the Bull Ring, Plaza De Toros, we could not have asked for better transportation.
Its a beautiful building, red brick, hand painted tile trim, really quite nice and BIG. Yes a very big stadium, very much like any stadium in the U.S. We arrived about 6:30 and the event begins at 7 p.m. sharp. This is an old stadium, built in 1931. Stone seats, hard and cold, but enough room, sort of like bleachers at home at any little league baseball game. When we arrived, the stadium was just beginning to fill, the grounds crew was cleaning up and spreading the dirt/sand mixture, chalking the lines and all.
The stadium begins to fill, you can feel the energy in the air, it’s electric, as you look around every few minutes you see it has filled more and more, this stadium holds 25,000, it will not be a sell out, but darn close, I would say there is roughly 20,000-22,000 people here to watch this. I begin to feel the excitement build in myself as well, I am getting excited, the noise is getting louder, the energy palpable, It all looks so official and interesting because I know very little about what is going to happen. At 7 p.m. on the dot, the music begins to play and the Pomp begins. the introductions of the nights Matadors, the Torero’s, the Picador (Lancer on Horseback), Banderillero (Inserts Barbed Wooden decorated sticks into Bull’s neck muscle), extraction crew etc.
With me is Patrick, Jerry and Lisa. I know this was a tough decision for Lisa, to attend, but she is such a trooper. I want to be right upfront about this. I don’t know much about this “Sport”, only what I have read and that is not much. I have made the decision not to cloud my judgement on this, I do know the end result however. I am really looking forward to watching the event, learning from it and experiencing the people who revere this Sport. I call it a sport because in Spain and other parts of the world, it is, whether you agree or not. It is considered as important as we consider Baseball, Basketball or Football in the U.S.
But this Sport is different, at the end of this game, an animal will have given up his life. An animal that was raised specifically for this sport. There is no other sport in the world, that I know of where that is the case. Now some will probably argue with me that hunting or fishing is a sport, but I don’t think so and certainly not like this, those are no more a sport than nail clipping is. We don’t have huge stadiums to watch people hunt or fish, we don’t pay upwards of $100 for a ticket to watch nail clipping either.
As the festivities begin it is very exciting, there is a whole theatrical process, music, costumes, it is theatre stadium style. Tonight we will see 3 Matadors, each will fight 2 bulls. But there is much more to it, there is the Matador, his Torero’s (Assistants), the Picador and Banderillero’s. The Torero’s role is to the act as the Rodeo Clown, well not really, but sort of, they are to aggravate the bull, but at the same time, keep the bull at bay if the bull gets the better of the Matador, which does happen. The first 15 minutes is the Torero’s just doing their job, aggravating the bull.
Then there is a change in music and tone, the Matador enters the ring, to rousing applause. As the Matador makes his way around the ring, to show his appreciation for our presence, the bull begins to take notice and takes a stand in defiance and confusion of what is happening. The Torero’s are working feverishly to draw the bulls attention away from the Matador while he continues his walk around the arena and ultimately to the Judges area to tip his hat, part of the points awarded by the Judges are rewarded due to the Matador’s control of the Bull. A Matador and his Torero’s are to show complete control of the bull, he is to control the bulls movements and activities.
During all of this, there is tremendous theatre, the movements of the Matador, the colors of the Costume’s and the gestures he makes towards the Bull. Watching the movement of the Matador and Bull, it’s as if they are in a very intimate dance, at times the bulls horns are no more than a few inches away from the Matador. Taunting, aggravating, chasing, running from and facing off against the bull, this is the dance, it is The Dance of Death.
The Bull, who is confused, strong and defiant will at times and does tonight get the better of the Matador, the bull catches the Matador with his horns and and throws him to the ground. Tonight, this Matador is lucky, he got up. The Dance of Death continues. The crowd is beginning to make some noise, cheering and jeering this Matador. He is the first of the night, but clearly not the best; he is the warm up act, he is nothing more than the understudy to the Star of the show.
We are now about 20 minutes into this Dance, the bull is physically exhausted, his movements slower, less explosive but undeterred by the Matador and his band of Torero’s. The bull musters up enough energy to attack one of the Picador’s, whose sole job seems to be to Tag the Bull, that is stab him in the back, leaving behind a colorful flag and more blood; to aggravate him even more. By this time, this bull has been stabbed on three occasions by the Picador’s. He is becoming quite colorful, flags and blood, these are the color of death for a Bull.
This is becoming obvious even to a first timer that this is staged and timed, certain sections must happen within an allotted time, timed to extract cheers from the crowd of 20,000+ spectators, timed by the Music. It is a symphony whose Crescendo is about to begin. The Banderillero has come out to stab the bull with long, colorful spears, two at a time. He walks up to the bull, slowly, patiently, strategically while the Matador commands the bulls attention, he strikes fast, swinging and striking the bull with his spears, tonight this Banderillero missed his target 3 out of 6 attempts, he too must be an understudy, a wanna be who has much to learn. As this Dance of Death continues I find myself cheering for the bull, hoping he gores the shit out of the Matador and all his friends, raises his head at the end and snorts a big FU to the crowd.
I can feel the end is near, this dance is to end soon, The music changes once again, and the body language and attitude changes from the Matador. The exhausted caged animal is weary as the Matador begins to slowly walk toward the Bull, saber pulled and at the ready; the end is near. The Matador moves in. The bull stands once again in defiance of the Matador, it is man vs. animal at it’s most critical moment. The crowd quiets as it watches in anticipation of the Matador doing his job, he strikes with force to end the Bulls life.
The Matador seems a bit shaken by the experience, disbelieving that he actually missed the bull. The Matador prepares himself yet again, taunting the Bull, red cape flowing in front of the Bull, daring him to leap forward. The Matador begins to point his saber at the bull, talking to him, challenging him to attack and of course the bull doing what any animal would do in this situation, he attacks.
The Matador makes another pass with his saber, the crowd goes absolutely wild, he has hit his target, this Bulls dance card has been punched.
A Matador’s job is to fight the bull, end his life quickly, dropping the bull in his place. This does not happen tonight, this Matador, this second rate, warm up act has not hit his target properly. The bull continues to stand, defiant all the while bleeding out. The bull snorts and blows profuse amounts of blood, he is dazed, confused and yet still standing.
It is the Bulls big Fuck You to the Matador. As this progresses the Matador and his Torero’s gather around the bull, making sure he is cornered, contained and controlled, while he fights for his life. More blood, and more and more come pouring out of the bull; he begins to stagger, slowly he is dying, until he can no longer move and falls, he has died. Quickly he is tied up to a team of extraction horses and drug out of the ring, but not before one of his Ears has been cut off and offered to the Matador as a prize.
The crowd goes wild, standing ovations for the Matador, cheering, yelling.
It took nearly 45 seconds for the Bull to drop to his death, the longest 45 seconds I have ever felt in my life, I am sure the shortest 45 seconds the Bull has ever felt in his. Those seconds felt like weeks watching this poor, unfortunate animal doing his best to live. This is not how it is suppose to be. If done properly, the Bull would have died instantaneously.
That was enough for us we left….
The spectators attending this event, were a surprising demographic. A fairly equal number of women as men, however the crowd was decidedly middle aged to older, not very many young people. Maybe this is a sign of this sports future; It too will die, unfortunately it will be a slow death. People were dressed in suits and ties, dresses and high heels, this is perhaps not a sport for the poor, but one for the middle class and rich. What does that say? I think it is important again to note, that there were nearly 20,000 people attending with an average price of roughly $30.00, nearly $600,000 per night, 6 nights a week.
There are still 5 more fights to go tonight, but myself and my friends can not stomach any more of this. As we depart, we are not alone. But it is clear that those who are leaving are not Locals, they are tourists just like us, they don’t understand this sport either. I give them credit, I also think we have something else in common, the desire to appreciate and experience a different culture. This is one part of this countries culture, I am not interested in, anymore.
I am not here to judge this sport, I do not condone it nor do I deplore it. It is a sport that has been on this earth for 100’s of years, being played out in multiple countries and viewed by millions of people. I take a neutral stand whether this is ethical or moral in terms of a world view. However in terms of a personal, one man’s view, this is a sport that is not for me. It is unusual and cruel punishment, it is disgusting to me. It is called a Bullfight, and yes the Bull does fight back, but that Bull has no chance to win, he is taunted, aggravated, charged, stabbed, bleeding, he will die, period.
Knowing this as I did going into it, I just simply didn’t expect it to be so cruel and disrespectful. I really did believe that the Matador, Torero’s and Spectators all revered and had respect for the Bull, I just didn’t feel it or see it at all. It was nothing more than a blood sport. Again, I don’t judge this sport, after all in America we have similar sports, just smaller versions, Cock fighting, Dog fighting, these happen every day in the alleyways and in the darkness behind closed doors.
If you don’t see it, does it exist? Yes it does and it’s wrong.
If you see it, pay to watch it, is it wrong? Yes, it is.
And let’s not forget that one countries culture is not always understandable to us, just like aspects of our culture are not always understandable to another countries people, after all we have Monster Trucks and Truck Pulls, I am sure some other cultures can’t really understand those, hell I can’t either. Many of you out there probably will not agree with me, and expect me to be more vocal about this disgusting Sport, I can only speak for myself. I believe a country has it’s right to it’s culture and history, I do hope that one day this country and others around the world will stop this disgusting Sport.
Have we lost our sensitivity to death? Too many movies depicting death and murder, too many newscasts showing the same, too many decades of war. Has all of that made us desensitized to an innocent death? How can 20,000+ people watch and cheer the death of an innocent animal?
The morale of this story, if there is one, is that when your traveling to another country, don’t judge what you don’t know, learn about it, experience it first hand. Do your best to see and understand whatever it is from the locals perspective, then make a decision if it’s right for you. Judging what you do not know, isn’t the answer. Whether a Bullfight is for me or not, doesn’t really matter, they will go on with or without me just like they have for 100’s of years. But this is one Sport that I will never experience again, and if I did, I would be rooting for the Bull all the way.