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The spectacle opens with a sort of parade executed by the horse and foot combatants, all richly dressed according to the old Spanish costume. The Picadores fight on horseback, armed with lances; their horses are saddled in the Moorish fashion ; the lances are furnished with a sharp four-cornered head, made so as to wound the bull, without entering deep into his body. Flourishes are heard ; the barrier opens, and the bull appears. He has to avenge the many injuries received in his dark prison, and the craft by which he was entrapped ; with his hair on end and nostrils on fire, he stamps the ground, and threatens with his horns the spectators ; the solemn silence that instantly succeeds the thrilling sound of the trumpets, far from intimidating him, seems to increase his ardour.

He surveys the arena, and, in three bounds, darts on the first picador that comes forward. The shock is sometimes so violent that the lance shivers to pieces ; and the bull suddenly stopped in his course, is forced backward with pain from the wound. Every time the bull conquers a new enemy, he lifts his proud head, and casts a scornful and haughty look around him ; calmed, for a while, by victory, he seems to delight in the repeated plaudits of the multitude, and listens with pleasure to the shouts of Bravo, Bull! Bravo, Bull! The Picadores are succeeded by the Chulos or Banderilleros, who advance on foot.

The four-footed hero, victor in many battles, raises, for the last time, his dying head, and in one lengthened roar, the blood gushing from his mouth and nostrils, he expires. Three mules harnessed abreast and richly caparisoned come from a door opposite that by which the combatants entered, gallop to the bull, and drag him away with cords fastened to his horns.

The bull which comes next respires sometimes with frantic horror the still reeking blood scattered about the arena; and seized with the fury of revenge, he attacks indiscriminately all his foes at once. Sometimes too a timid bull wanders cowardly about the course, and returns to the outlet whence he came ; but that is irrevocably shut. The spectators consider him unworthy the honour of fighting with men ; the dogs are loudly called for, and the bull, assaulted by a pack, is soon thrown ; he is struck on the head with a sharp-pointed instrument made for the purpose, and dies amid barkings, shoutings and abuse.

This bloody tragedy, of which the devoted bull is the chief actor, presents the living picture of war as it was before the invention of gunpowder ; it offers to the mind its tumult, uncertainty and agitations, and the spectator, as in a field of battle, feels that electric emotion which is excited by the shedding of blood. Directly the spectacle begins, an almost convulsive joy seizes the spectators of every age and of both sexes. In an instant the gravest countenances expand and become cheerful. The men, seated on benches, lean forward, and open their cloaks to be more appropriate to the action, as if they were to take part in it.

They are seen to follow with their eyes and gestures every motion of the Picador or bull, and even encourage the animal by words, thinking thus to influence, by their own eagerness, the fate of the combat. October In the September issue of Prospect magazine, the actor and writer, Alexander Fiske-Harrison, provides an elegant description of a bullfight down in Sevilla and asks whether aesthetics can justify the suffering of an animal. To know his answer, you'll need to go to the article itself [at the end of this post].

The trio of maestros at Saturday night's corrida in Pontevedra were dismissed by Sunday's local papers as mediocre, netting only one ear between them. They say it's the fighting qualities of the bull which determine how well the matador performs. And maybe they're right. Not that everybody wants to see this demonstrated. Having stressed just how peaceful the city's post-bullfight drunken revels are, you can imagine how surprised and disappointed I was to read this morning that there were 'at least 8 fights' last night.

However, I was somewhat less astonished to see that 15 youngsters had been treated for alcohol poisoning. They come in different names and diverse colours. The biggest — and rowdiest — is a group of professional men who call themselves Gin Kas. Or Gin Tonic. As I know several of the members, one of my challenges on these four nights a year is avoiding getting sucked into their festivities, as they wend from one crowded bar to another.

Starting at 9. I have their detailed, laminated program in front of me. As ever, I'm surprised just how efficient Spaniards can be when it comes to having fun. The final venue on the card is for 8am, at the Emergency Department of the city hospital. Along with the intoxicated youngsters, I guess. In fact, the crowd rose as one to applaud the artistry.

And it struck me that this sort of thing is what a bullfight audience gets so excited about.

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When it happens. Which is not terribly often, I suspect. But there was a lot less blood involved at Goodison Park than at the average bullfight. Or any bullfight, to be totally accurate. On the pitch, I mean. God knows what was going on on the terraces. Or are those days past now? One of them, sadly, is annual 'festival' based on the torture until death of a terrified bull which is chased and lanced continuously by braves on foot and horseback. Even aficionados of the bullfight La fiesta nacional find this disgusting and the good news is that there was a huge demonstration against it in Madrid at the weekend.

With luck and a fair wind, its days are numbered. And that "It will do them more harm to watch a Gay Pride march. Anyway, most Spaniards don't appear to agree and many have pilloried him on social networks for his load of old bull. As for the Galicians, I believe his reason for their lack of interest was that they had enough dealings with death from the sea and famine on the land to regard it as something to be celebrated. Truth to tell, there are probably very few knowledgeable aficionados here.

The whole thing seems to be mainly an excuse to have fun and spray wine around. Even if senior Gallegos from the government and the opposition will be in town for the four corridas of the next week. The article by Alexander Fiske-Harrison:. A noble death. Bullfighting is seen by many as cruel. But it is not merely a gaudy circus spectacle; at its best it is an art form.

Can aesthetics justify the suffering of the animal? The bull enters the ring at a trot, a fanfare of trumpets fading in the background. He seems tentative, his eyes sweeping the ring. He arrived in town the night before from the pastures of Victorino Martin's estate in west-central Spain, 50 miles from the Portuguese border. Now that he is alone for the first time in his life, the restraints on his more ferocious instincts have been removed.

Standing at the far edges of the circular ring, some 60 yards from the bull, are three banderilleros: companions and employees of the matador in lesser versions of his "suit of lights," each with a large working cape in his hands, pink on one side, yellow on the other.

The matador walks into the ring, an unprepossessing year-old man of neat figure and composed manner. He flaps his cape and the bull turns, raising his great head with its wide-ranging horns so that the vast goring muscle, the morillo, bunches on its shoulders to a size outstripping any other breed of bull in the world.

And then he charges.


He is left panting, facing El Cid three yards away, who is standing with his back to the bull. El Cid receives his applause from the crowd and thus ends the section called suerte de capote, "luck of the cape," the first half of the first act of the bullfight called the tercio de varas, the "third of the lances. He has sufficient intelligence to follow the cape in these moves—which have been refined over years—but not so much that he has learnt to distinguish man and cape early in the fight.

This bull, after all, has probably never seen a man on the ground before, his herdsmen on the estate all being mounted on horseback. However, he is learning. At some point he will, inevitably, see the man. A fanfare of trumpets announces the second part of the first act of the drama. The gates open and out trot two big horses, made larger by three-inch-thick compressed-cotton armour, which is encased in leather and canvas and wrapped around their bodies. Although there are two picadors, it is the one closest to the president's box on the shady side of the ring to whom the bull is directed.

The bull is lined up by El Cid until it is facing the horse across five yards of clear sand.

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Espinosa shifts in the saddle with a call of "Toro! Instead, he slides both of his horns under the horse's central body mass, and, forklift style, begins to lift horse and rider, armour and all—a combined weight of almost stone. Espinosa leans over the bull, risking landing on the horns should he lose his balance, pushing down with the lance, not twisting or repositioning it as some will do to damage the muscle further and increase blood loss, but trying to get the bull to give way.

The horse gets back to his feet unaided and, surprisingly, uninjured. Then the trumpets blare and the first act of the drama has ended, by presidential decree. He has had his strength and his resolve tested. His head is held lower, he is bloodied, but very much unbowed. It is now that the El Cid's banderilleros come into their own, in the tercio de banderillas the "third of the darts". The banderillas are 70cm in length with a barbed steel tip, their wooden hafts adorned with coloured paper.

The skill required here from the man is twofold. First, he must site the bull so that it charges in a line which intersects with his own semi-circular trajectory at a moment when he can lean over the horns to place the banderillas and continue past without being caught by the bull. Or at least this is the usual method. As with everything in the ring, there are some unbreakable rules, but other rules which are merely traditions the crowd enjoy seeing broken or innovated upon with daring and skill.

The second task of the banderillero is to place the banderillas in such a way that they straighten out the charge of the bull, negating his preference for one horn over another, or at least reducing it so that he does not hook with one horn when he reaches a target.


The banderillas are all well placed by El Cid's men, and the second act passes as it so often does in the theatre, of necessity for the development of plot and character, but with neither the novelty and energy of the first, nor the pathos and grandeur of the last.

The trumpets sound, and now begins the tercio de muerte, the "third of death. The Seville stadium—the second oldest in Spain, after Ronda, dating from —is packed to its 12,seat capacity, so to fight this final act in the centre—rather than in the shade near the expensive seats—is a democratic act. However, it also means that the matador is far from safety should he fall, be tossed or drop his cape. His cuadrilla with their distracting capes are far away, and once a bull is upon a man, it will thrust with its horns until it judges the object of its rage to be dead.

El Cid's sole protection is the matador's small sword, the estoque, in his right hand and the red muleta in his left. The muleta is smaller than the cape, with a stick along one of its lengths so that it may be used single-handed. It is red to mask whoever's blood is spilt, bulls being quite colour-blind. Some ten minutes have passed since the bull entered the ring and during that time he has undergone many physical and psychological changes. His head is considerably lower and his charge is slower when he gives it, which is less often.

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He is wiser now, and at his most dangerous. He has also developed a querencia near one of the stands in the shade.

Three gored at Pamplona bull fighting festival

A querencia—which can be translated as lair—is where a bull feels safe and to where he returns if given the opportunity. Centuries ago, when the bullrings were square they grew out of the brutal, artless, spontaneous bullfights which used to be held in small town squares with the exits barricaded off , these would always be in the corners.

Now, they are formed where the bull has developed a comforting association, in this case where he toppled the horse. In this place, he is at his most unpredictable.

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El Cid puts the point of his sword through a corner of the muleta, and with his left hand on his hip, his left foot forward, he sites the bull in the classic matador pose, calling, "Toro! The bull passes and turns, ready to charge again with his recovered wind. The bull takes the lure and passes the man by, a little closer this time, the hafts of the banderillas clattering against El Cid's thighs as he passes.

The bull turns again, and now El Cid removes the sword from the muleta and sights the bull with the red fabric in his left hand, sword in his right—a left-handed natural, the purist's move, classically executed at chest height, the bull even closer so that his rear flank brushes past El Cid's chest, leaving traces of blood on his suit of lights. El Cid sweeps his sword through the dust into the air in salute to the audience, the bull and the day that brought him the opportunity for such a faena, such a display.

The crowd are on their feet now, cheering each pass, as man and bull become one self-encircling instrument. It must end, and it does at El Cid's direction.

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The 15 minutes that Spanish law says a bull may live in the ring is drawing to a close, and the tragedy must have its preordained finale. El Cid walks to the barrier and his sword handler gives him the killing sword, with its special curved tip. Then something happens which I have never seen before in fights.

The people take out their white handkerchiefs and wave them, requesting that the president of the bullring pardon the bull. El Cid looks to the president, but, for whatever reason—perhaps the bull is too damaged—he does not agree. It was at this moment that Bailador killed Joselito, the greatest matador who ever lived, in It was at this moment that Islero delivered the fatal wound to Manolete, the most famous and epic of matadors and heir to Joselito, in Greatness and skill are not a sufficient defence for the matador at the moment of truth.

Then, with the sword in his right hand, he sights down the length of the blade at eye level, every muscle tense, standing on the tips of his toes. For a single moment, man and bull are one, indistinguishable in the evening light, and the outcome is unclear—as the headlines said of Manolete, "He killed dying and he died killing! The sword is in the right place. The blade is not long enough to reach the heart, and when it strikes a lung the result is obvious as the bull bleeds from its mouth, whereas if it manages to penetrate the spine the bull drops as though poleaxed.

This time it is in the aorta, and the bull wavers on its feet for a moment, before crumpling to the ground. The crowd are on their feet, stamping and cheering, but El Cid just stands and stares at the bull in grave silence, his face inscrutable. Have you created a personal profile? Login or create a profile so that you can create alerts and save clips, playlists, and searches. Please log in from an authenticated institution or log into your member profile to access the email feature. The killing of the bull is either loved or hated. There is no middle way.

It is a cultural component that comes from times that we no longer even remember. It is a world that once you enter, you like it more and more, and you want to be more a part of it. The characteristic that on the surface best portrays Spaniards is their contagious vitality, their love of life. Therefore it may seem paradoxical that the metaphor used in this chapter to describe Spanish culture is the bullfight, a confrontation with CQ Press Your definitive resource for politics, policy and people. Remember me? Back Institutional Login Please choose from an option shown below. Need help logging in?

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