Corrida de Toros

29 Nov

Nothing quite says “Spain” like a bullfight, or la corrida de toros.  While bullfighting is considered one of the expressions of Hispanic culture, they are also practiced in Portugal, southern France and in several countries of Latin America.  Bullfights were originally fought on horseback, but were replaced by foot sometime during the 19th century.   In Spain, a typical corrida involves 6 bulls:  3 rounds, thus 2 matadors and 2 bulls each round.  If you’ve never seen a bullfight, there are the different “characters” that take place in this event.

Matador: This is undoubtedly the central character in a bullfight, as they are the ones who actually make the kill with the sword.  He is responsible for sustaining the bullfight the bull with his cape, and when the moment is right, killing him. The bullfighters start learning usually at a very early age at special schools.  Approximately two years later they begin their careers as “truant”, which deals with smaller bulls, and eventually moves their way up to larger bulls.

Subalternos: This is the staff helps matador as needed and in situations they are allowed (occasionally bring the bull to a certain point, and distract it during the change of the sword).

Banderilleros: They are responsible for the placement of pairs of flags.

Mozo de Espadas: A person who works directly with the killer, his job is to help change crutches, capes and swords.

Picador: A person who, on horseback, uses a long stick with a metal point (puya) to punish the bull and cause tearing of tissue in order to prove his bravery, identify his characteristics and prevent the animal from lifting his ram head.

Presidente: Usually a representative of the municipality where they perform. He keeps order in the plaza and his main purposes are to order the start of the celebration and award prizes (ears and tail-to the slaughter).  If the Matador is “successful” in the eye of the president, he will wave the white flag.

There is also a certain order to how the process of bullfighting happens, called “Tercios” and “Suertes”.

Tercio de Varas: The matador fights with sticks the cape and the bull receives a series of Shiv in the rubble (swollen area between the neck and the back of the bull) by the chopper. The aim of the Shiv is to measure the bull’s bravery and willingness to attack, plus the strength of the bull dosed to facilitate the subsequent work of the matador.

Suerte de Capote:  The task to develop the bullfighter’s cape to measure the bull’s charge as well as his strength and disposition.

Tercio de Banderillas: During this, there are ornaments stuck into the back of the bull commonly called flags or pinwheels (instruments consisting of a stick of wood decorated with paper fringe colors with a harpoon on the end). The function of these instruments is to stoke the animal by moving them.

Suerte de Muleta: This sort is only performed by the matador.  The most common sets are the natural (open and with the left hand) and right hand (with the right and the sword in the cloth of the crutch to extend the surface of it) plus the closing of chest.

Tercio de Muerte: Once the matador has shown his mastery of the bull, he is ready to kill. This is the climax of the fighting. The matador ensures that the position of the bull is ideal for the thrust, (with the front legs together).  As he is stretched over the horns, he thrusts the sword between the shoulder blades while trying to avoid any sudden jolt of the horns. The perfect lunge cuts the aorta and causes the death of the animal almost instantly.

I know it sounds extremely brutal, but nevertheless, it is a large part of old Spanish tradition.  With the new age, however, many people are coming to dislike these corridas, most specifically the younger generation.  I actually went to a corrida just a few weeks after arriving in Spain.  Some parts were definitely tough to watch, but I was determined to keep an open-mind.  I actually did enjoy it—except for the killing of the bull (that was the tough part).  Regardless of whether or not you agree with bullfighting, it is very hard not to have respect and awe for the talent of the matadors.  Their footwork with the cape and the bulls is more like an artform, something very beautiful—and dangerous—to watch.   Now whether you call it bravery or stupidity is up to you, but they do train their whole lives for this, and it’s normally a family tradition.  While I’m glad I experienced the corrida de toros once, to be honest I probably wouldn’t go again.  I do feel it’s important to at least see it, however, just for the sake of Spain in itself.

Beginning in 2012, corridas de toros are going to begin to slowly disappear, city by city.


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