Indiana University Overseas Study

¡Y Olé!

When I think of Spain, I think of bulls, bull fights, and the Running of the Bulls. Last week I got to experience a corrida de toros (bull fight). It was definitely interesting to say the least. It’s nothing like the American impression of a bullfight, or at least the one I had before I left for Spain. It was something I had wanted to do, but didn’t know anything about it. Here’s my explanation (with the help of Wikipedia, for some of the more cultural meanings) of a Spanish bull fight.

Note: My apologies in advance for people who dislike bull fights.

The bull fight I attended was  amateurs. Traditionally, the fiestas, or festivals, of corridas de toros occur on Sunday, however, since it was younger, less popular toreros, matadors, it was actually on a Thursday.

To start out the event, the three toreros and their compañeros, which consists of six assistants (two picadores on horseback with lances, three banderilleros who are similar to the main torero, and a mozo de espadas who has the sword of the main torero) parade out, called the paseíllo, to salute any royalty or famous people there. The toreros are dressed in fancy clothing with gold on it. This is just about as peaceful as it gets, unfortunately. There were some in our group who didn’t get much farther than this.

My group at the corrida

Next, the bull enters. Each torero will face two bulls that are between 4 and 6 years old and weigh at least 1,014 pounds. The bull, before it steps into the arena, has already been wounded to anger it. From there, the torero will taunt the bull out of the pen. Here is where the torero will learn the “style” of the bull. He will perform a series of passes with the bull to observe its behavior. This is what is most familiar with bull fights, the “Olé” part with the cape.

Shortly after, two picadors enter the plaza on horseback. They will then stab the bull with the lance right around the neck. This is how the torero learns which side the bull favors. If successful, the bull should be weakened and hold its head lower.

Next, the three banderilleros will each try to plant two banderillas, sharp barbed sticks, into the bulls shoulder. This is dangerous for the banderillas because they have to run and avoid the bull while jumping around it to stick the banderillas in. It’s a poor performance if one or none of the banderillas stick.

Then, the final stage, tercio de muerte, the third of death. Here the torero enters alone with a red cape and sword. The red cape doesn’t actually anger the bull at all; it’s the only color they can see. The torero will orchestrate a variety of passes that get closer and closer to his body, which serve to tire the bull and appease the crowd. Then, it’s time. The bull has fought valiantly but the torero will go in for the kill. He will attempt to put the sword through the bull’s shoulder and straight to its heart.

As you can see, this is definitely a very cruel process for the bulls. I told my host señor and his mother that I was going to it and received mixed reactions. My señor said that there are parts that he doesn’t mind but other parts he hates. Then, my abuela said that she absolutely hates corridas. It’s definitely brings out mixed feelings. Some in Spain see it as an art and sport which is just as culturally significant as anything else. Others want to see it banned. In the northern part of Spain and in all of Portugal, it’s illegal to kill the bull in these. As a result, it’s just a series of passes and a “dance” then the bull goes on and lives its life in the pasture.

For me, I see both sides. It’s definitely a huge part of the culture; however, it’s an awful sport. I can’t really decide how I feel. I don’t know the difference between the two types of corridas, but it was definitely an experience I won’t forget.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

View all posts by Greg

%d bloggers like this: