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Blood and Sunshine – Bullfight in Malaga
On a hot day in the summer of 2001 in Malaga, while studying Spanish in the Andalusian city, I decided to attend my first bullfight. My father being a long-time Spanish teacher, I had often heard of his bullfighting trips with his students and I also had vague memories of a TV show I watched while on vacation in northern Spain commemorating the death of a matador – horrific goring was a shocking sight for an eight year old boy and left me with mixed feelings about going to a bullfight. Part of me drawn to the spectacle and what it symbolizes in Spain’s cultural heritage, and part of me mildly reviled as a young man with a stomach quite weak for blood and blood.
Tickets were secured in the early afternoon for a surprisingly high price. I found that the prices varied wildly depending on whether you sat in the sun or the shade, the latter obviously being the most coveted and therefore the most expensive. As the afternoon sun cast its light over half the arena, I looked around and noticed that the arena was by no means full when the first bull came out of the enclosure by skidding and hammering. I was immediately struck by the size and power of the creature, specifically bred to be as aggressive and unpredictable as possible and weighing somewhere in the region of 600kg. Immediately, the giant animal crashed into the wooden fence surrounding the arena, smashing a hole and rendering itself incapacitated from combat due to its injuries. A replacement bull was sent and the show was on at the second request. I sat down with my bag of sunflower seeds and my beer (at least trying to watch the game) to watch the drama unfold.
From the conversations I’ve had since and the books I’ve read now, I realize how often Northern Europeans see “Corrida” in the wrong light. Many have told me that it is a cruel sport where the bull is severely handicapped to let the matador win. First of all, it seems to me now that bullfighting is in no way a sport; it is as much a cultural demonstration as ballet or an opera where certain rules must be respected and conventions followed. If you look for bullfighting news in a Spanish newspaper, it won’t show up in the sports pages, but rather in the culture section.
However, I cannot deny its cruelty towards the bull, from the first act (the “Corrida” is cut into three “tercios”, literally “thirds”); the mounted picadors drive their pikes into the muscles of the bull’s neck. In the next act, the “banderilleros” do the same with their colored and barbed darts. By then the bull was bloody and tired, its heavy horns almost dragging in the dust as the matador appeared for the final “tercio” known as the “faena”. This is the climax of the bullfight where the matador shows the audience his dominance of the bull and the grace of his movements before delivering the final blow to the bull’s heart with his sword.
I remember thinking about what I had just seen as the bull was dragged out of the arena, an arc of smeared blood tracing its course on the ground, and realizing that I had been captivated and appalled at the same time. Obviously, bullfighting will always be a divisive issue, even in Spain there are groups calling for it to be banned as it has already been in Catalonia. For me, it offers the visitor a chance to soak up something that epitomizes Spain and its history – not everyone may like it, but it doesn’t have to be about love and aversion; of winners and losers – rather a question of what this means for the Spanish people and their cultural heritage.
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#Blood #Sunshine #Bullfight #Malaga