***image1***Ernest Hemingway may have found a way to appreciate the ceremony and
the history of the bullfight in España when he wrote “Death in the
Afternoon.” But, for us − a group of first-time bullfight attendees −
well, we found ourselves cheering for the bull.
It was a whim, us attending a Spanish bullfight. Six of us were in
Barcelona − the Catalonian city which is not necessarily known for
Not far from where Pablo Picasso lunched with his artist friends, we
saw a poster announcing the bullfight. The star-bullfighter was named
“deMendoza” and it almost seemed like we had to go.
We had no preconceived ideas, other than an image of an 18th century
clad- matador, with outstretched leg, swirling a red cape as toro
charged and missed.
We didn’t know we would see three bullfighters fight six bulls that night.
***image3***It’s not like an American rodeo, which seems more fair because the
cowboy doesn’t always win. Here, in this ancient tradition that may
date back to the Romans, the matador has a different relationship with
the animal. Those who study this ceremony say it’s a test of facing
death. The matador faces death, and overcomes it. We thought we would
see a fight: one bull, one man, each looking into the other’s eyes with
only one left standing.
But a matador has a team of six fighters − two on horses − working with him, and against the bull.
Here is how the corrida − the bullfight − unfolds:
Act 1. Horns play, and contestants parade out and salute the president of the bullfight.
***image2***Bullfighters-in-training, or banderilleros, wave pink capes to make the
bull run, conceivably to wear him out and assess his strength. Then,
enter two picadores, who are riding blindfolded horses wearing body
armor. They plunge a picador into the bull’s neck. This act seems more
violent than even the finale. It left us cold − like the fight wasn’t
really a fight at all, at least not a fair one.
Act 2. Now the three banderilleros run up on the bull with barbed
darts, decorated with yellow and red ribbons, and stab them into his
Act 3. At last, the matador comes out, he waves his hat at the
president. Now, begins the dance with the red cape. The crowd shouts
“Olé” after each pass.
Toro gave it his best. He got the better of one matador, tossing him
around for a few seconds before the banderilleros raced out to distract
the bull. “Go, go, go,” we shouted.
Eventually, the bull tires and the matador sees his chance. His goal is
to stick the sword in the bull’s heart, killing him in one move. It’s
done. The Spanish crowd approves. They are on their feet waving white
handkerchiefs to the president, indicating that they believed it was a
good fight and the matador should keep the ear of the bull. The
president nods and the crowd erupts, tossing roses.
Toro is dragged out of the arena by horses.