These past few weeks I have been trying to be as Spanish as I could possibly be. But let’s face it, my blond hair and blue eyes ALWAYS give me away.
First super Spanish experience: A Bullfight.
Now I know many people aren’t super cool with this idea. However, I believe that it is a Spanish tradition that I need to experience. Yes, I know what happens to the bull at the end, and yes it does make me uncomfortable. BUT ISN’T TRAVELING ABOUT STEPPING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE?? Aren’t you suppose to experience things that are different from your own culture? Anyways, I understand those who refuse to support this activity, but I wanted to see if first hand before I truly decided.
So off to the bullfight we went. For Spaniards, Bullfighting is right up there with football here. People will buy tickets for the season. Bullfighters are paid a ridiculous amount, for example a leading bullfighter could ask for 400,000 euros (520,000 dollars) for a single appearance. However, many bullfighters have to start at the bottom, where they have to pay for their costume, the people who assist them, and if they aren’t established fighters they need to pay for the “right” to fight. All of that could cost a bullfighter 4,000-5,000 euros (5,200 -6,500 dollars) PER FIGHT.
Now, you are probably wondering how a sport like this came into existence. Here it goes:
Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice. The first recorded bullfight may be the Epic of Gilgamesh (an old story) which describes a scene in which Gilgamesh and Enkidu fought and killed the Bull of Heaven. The killing of the sacred bull is the essential central iconic act of Mithras (a mysterious Roman religion), which was commemorated in the mithraeum (the area in which people of the Mithras religion worship). The oldest representation of what seems to be a man facing a bull is on the celtiberian tombstone from Clunia and the cave painting “El toro de hachos”, both found in Spain.
Bullfighting is often linked to Rome, where many human-versus-animal events were held. There are also theories that it was introduced into Hispania (the Spanish region ruled by Rome) by the Emperor Claudius, as a substitute for gladiators, when he instituted a short-lived ban on gladiatorial combat. The latter theory was supported by Robert Graves (“picadors” are the remnants of the warriors who wielded the javelin, but their role in the contest is now a minor one limited to “preparing” the bull for the torero.) Bullfighting spread from Spain to its Central and South American colonies, and to France in the 19th century, where it developed into a distinctive form in its own right.
Religious festivities and royal weddings were celebrated by fights in the local plaza, where noblemen would ride competing for royal favor. The Spanish introduced the practice of fighting on foot around 1726. Francisco Romero is generally regarded as having been the first to do this. This type of fighting drew more attention from the crowds. Thus the modern corrida, or fight, began to take form, as riding noblemen were substituted by commoners on foot. This new style prompted the construction of dedicated bullrings. The modern style of Spanish bullfighting is credited to Juan Belmonte, generally considered the greatest torero (bullfighter) of all time. Belmonte introduced a daring and revolutionary style, in which he stayed within a few inches of the bull throughout the fight. Today, bullfighting remains similar to the way it was in 1726, when Francisco Romero, from Ronda, Spain (HEY I HAVE BEEN THERE! And this is home to Spanish bullfighting), used the estoque, a sword, to kill the bull, and the muleta, a small cape used in the last stage of the fight.
The main players in una corrida:
The Bull: el torro
The bullfighter: El torero (Matador is a very SPANGLISH word to use…)
2 Lancers on horse back: los picadores
2 Banderilleros: los banderilleros
All of these people are an entourage, una cuadrilla, with the torero as the team captain. So what happens next? Well first, all the players come out into the ring to be greeted by the crowd. This is called the paseíllo. Then the corrida starts. The corrida I saw consisted of 6 bulls, or 6 fights; each bullfighter going twice. Some bullfights are different, depending on which bullfighters are there, how old the bulls are, etc.
ANYWAYS, back to the excitement. The bulls come running out into the ring, pissed off because he has already been poked. This beginning part of the corrida is called, tercio de varas, the lancing third. The torero and his group test out the bull, seeing how fast it runs, what behaviors or quirks it has. Then comes out the picadores on horseback. The picadores stab the bull on the hunch of its back to weaken it, so the it will also hang its head lower making it easier for the torero to kill it. The torero also gets a clue of which side a torro will charge form.
The next stage is called, tercio de banderillas, or the third of banderillas. These guys will charge the bull and stick two poker like things into it. If both pokers stick into the bull it is considered great success. This continues to weaken the bull.
The last and final stage is the tercio de muerte, or the third of death, where just the torero is in the ring with the bull. Fun fact: it is thought that the torero uses a red cape, or muleta, to anger the bull…but bulls are color-blind. Here the torero continues to “dance” with the bull until he has decided it is time to kill it. He retrieves a special sword, estoque, to stab it in the heart. This is where things get a bit nasty…the idea of the killing is that the torero does it in the first try, but it hardly ever happens that way. However, the crowd can be forgiving, and if they think it was a successful fight they will cheer him on with white handkerchiefs or the ear of the bull will be presented to him. If his performance was exceptional, he will award two ears, and in certain more rural rings, a tail can still be awarded. Very rarely, if the public or the torero believe that the bull has fought extremely bravely, the event’s president may be petitioned to grant the bull a pardon, indulto, and if it is granted, the bull’s life is spared; and it is allowed to leave the ring alive and return to the ranch from where it came. Then the bull becomes a stud bull for the rest of its life.
Here are links to different parts of the bullfight:
I’m not going to lie it is kind of rough watching the bull die. I will admit that that part I am uncomfortable with. However, this bull has been raised like a king before this match, en serio, these bulls are raised like no other animal. I remind myself that animals that are raised to be eaten in the States aren’t treated they way they should be. Plus, I eat meat, so really I can’t be too terrible upset since every part of the bull is used after the match. The ears are awarded out, the head may be used as a decoration, and even the meat is sold (trust me on that last one, my señora enjoyed making me hamburguesas de torro). So honestly, it makes me feel a little better. I am not saying I will become a season ticket holder of this sport, but I believe it is a unique key part of the Spanish culture that is very interesting to observe.
Next stop: La Feria
This past week was a week long celebration that took place in Sevilla. Feria de abril translates to April fair. For Sevillianos, it is the week to be out and about. People dress up to the nine’s in their trajes flamencos, flamenco dresses, and trajes cortos and cordobés, short suit jackets and light pants with a hat. Typically, in Sevilla, feria starts on Monday with a very Andaluz fish fry (no mother, it is not lutefisk). Usually there is a parade most days, and at midday (2 PM when everyone finishes work) people head to their casetas in the fairgrounds by the Guadalquivir River. These are little marquee tents that have all the furnishes to eat and drink until you can’t no more. Honestly, this week is about spending time with your family and friends, eating and drinking way too much, and looking pretty fly all week.
Here is a great Spanish song that explains how these people feel and look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWy1_Tfh030
So how did this awesome holiday of partying begin? Well, let’s go back to the year of 1847 when this fair was originally a livestock trade fair. However, it wasn’t until 3 casetas were created by some wealthy families, that the idea of having these tents caught on. Nowadays, there a private tents that are owned by families, businesses, political parties, etc and you have to be invited to those. En serio, they have body guards and lists at the gate, es una fiesta muy exclusivo. There are a few public tents too, and from what I saw they were having they time of their lives there.
My friends and I didn’t go into any tents, we only walked around feria, taking in all the sites. Luckily it is completely OK to stare at people here in Spain (hey, they stare at me, so I can stare back), so I spent a lot of time looking at how everyone was dressed and what people were doing in their tents. Here are my observations:
Some links to different videos about feria:
casetas publicas: https://vimeo.com/64591151
casetas privadas: https://vimeo.com/64593160
Now that I have experienced the most “Spanish” activities ever, I have come to a few realizations:
1. I will never be a Spaniard if I continue with my Swedish looks (Don’t worry mother, I will always be blond haired and blue eyed). However, the people here are so open, that they love it when you participate in Spanish activities!
2. I won’t ever be a professional flamenco dancer (plan B: bullfighter).
3. Although there are times that I can’t handle Spaniards and their way of life, it’s experiences like these that remind me how difficult it will be for me to leave this beautiful country and its people.
With that thought, HASTA LUEGO!