It is not as if I didn’t know what was going to happen at a bullfight. I mean, I knew bulls were going to die right in front of me. Sometimes the bulls kill the matador instead, Sean said helpfully. Great. My alternatives are watching people torment an animal, or watch the animal turn on the people.
Yet I was willing to go to the bullfight, because although you can sit in cafes all over the world, bullfighting is a strong cultural tradition most famously associated with Spain. Plus, I figured I condone the murders of innocent animals each time I eat meat, even if in my ideal world the animal lives a happy little life beforehand. I’m no angel.
Again, because we are cheap frugal, we opted for the cheap seats in the sun for 13 euros per ticket instead of upwards of 30 euros for tickets in the shade. Turns out that like the spectators, matadors like the shade too, so in exchange for having the sun beat down onto us, there was a greater distance between me and the live killings that were about to occur.
Sean busied himself taking live action shots. Don’t worry. Although it meant I was forced to live through the killings a second time, I screened all of the shots to not subject you to any of the ones with stabbing, goring, or blood. There were three matadors on the poster advertising the fight. We naively assumed we would only have to watch 3 bull “fights,” but turns out there were six bulls murdered that night. The crowd never grew tired of the show.
Each time, a bull would be released into the ring. It would stumble around, looking confused. Then one of the matadors would entice it to come over with a pink cape, and the bull would take off running. They would egg the bull on for a while, provoking it to charge at the pink capes, until a man on a horse would come out. The bull would take all of its anger out at the horse and charge at its side. The horse, who was blindfolded by the way, would stumble around while the rider on top stabbed at the bull with a long sword. Fortunately, the horses now wear armor. For a time, more horses were killed in bullfights than bulls.
After being weakened by its stabbing from the rider atop the horse, the bull continued to charge at the matadors. They taunted the bull, enticing it to come closer, until each of them stabbed two colorful pointed sticks (banderillas) into the bull’s neck. Sometimes, one of the two would bounce off the bull and land on the ground, but the end result was that the bull would run around, raging mad, with 4-6 banderillas dangling from its body.
Finally, a matador would come out with a red cape. When the bull charged at the cape, the matador raised a giant sword and thrust it in the bull’s neck, going for the kill shot. If it didn’t work, the matador would repeat until the bull stumbled and collapsed on the ground. Just to make sure the job was really done, one of the other matadors gave the bull a few final stabs. Horses dragged the bull’s lifeless body away to the cheers of the crowd, leaving a trail of blood in the sand. The blood was swept over, and the process began again.
I can’t begin to fathom why this is something that people enjoy, but to each his own, I suppose. It is safe to say that this will be the one and only bullfight I attend in my life.
p.s. When we were eating dinner at a little hole in the wall restaurant in Lisbon, Portugal, we noticed they were showing a matador collapsed on the ground on t.v. At first I thought it was the news and a bull had killed a matador. Then we realized it was a t.v. show – something along the lines of C.S.I., Lisbon. All of the characters were there: there was the older, wise detective, the young hot head, and the attractive female. They studied the crime scene, went to the morgue, and interrogated suspects. The only difference was the murder. The murder was of a matador, killed by two banderillas in his neck. A classic Iberian whodunnit.