Matador, Bull And Cape

Ernest Hemmingway, a great aficionado of bullfighting, makes you feel that it is only the most narrow minded who refuse to see a bull fight, or Corrida de Toros. Colin and I decide to go as we are here to immerse ourselves in Spanish culture, and this is an essential a part of it. The bull fight has its own vocabulary and costumes, and has produced some beautiful images, artefacts and clothing.

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Decorative Tambourine
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Bullfighting Has A Long History
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Matador Portrait

By chance the toreros [matadors, picadors and peones] are staying at our hotel.

Top matadors get paid almost as much as top footballers, but there are far fewer of them, about 250. Unlike footballers, they risk their lives at every performance but they attract the same kind of following, and are chased by the Spanish equivalent of Essex girls.

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Crowds Awaiting The Bullfighters

I had imagined that the matadors always won, but in fact the outcome can be deadly for them. The day after seeing our fight, the Spanish news is all about Jose Tomas, the top bullfighter of our time, being very badly gored in the thigh, in Mexico. In the past, before blood transfusions and antibiotics, he certainly would have died. He needed eight litres.

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El Fandi

However horrible the bull fight is, you have to admire the bravery of these guys. Would you go into a field marked; “Beware of the bull”? no, neither would I, especially not in a tight jacket and trousers embroidered to sparkle in the sun, pink socks, flat pumps and no protective padding.

What we see in the bullring is essentially two mammals trying to kill each other. One is highly trained, beautifully dressed, armed with a sword [at the end of the fight] and assisted by his cuadrilla [team].

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The Bull Weighs In At A Minimum 460kgs

The other is a particular breed of bull, about 4-6 years old, weighing at least 460 kgs, and bred on a farm, who up till today has never been inside a bull ring and is provoked into making aggressive and focussed attacks on people and horses.

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Seville's Oval

Sevillle’s bullring was built in 1761, it’s the second oldest in Spain. We have good seats, just below the Puerta Principe, where the aristocratic ladies sit, all in lace and mantillas.

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Duchess Of Alba
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Aristocratic Ladies in Mantillas
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Cigar Chomping Man

We’re surrounded men smoking cigars and exuding barely suppressed boredom at some points during the ninety minutes. This obviously isn’t their first time.

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The Bullfighters Enter The Ring

There are three matadors, each one takes on two bulls. Trumpets are played to signal various stages of the fight and the president of the bull ring decides if the matador performs well enough to earn a trophy, and if a bull is not up to the job.

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A Lame Bull Is Lead Away By Steers

When a bad bull, in this case a lame one, comes on, everyone whistles and boos, and in a pantomime-like scene he is herded off with lots of steers, each with its own clanging bell.

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Teasing The Bull

In the Corrida, the bull comes rushing into the ring. He gets tested by the peones, who see which way he charges by making passes with their pink cloaks. They duck quickly behind barriers in the side of the ring if he gets too close, or if one man is being chased, another will distract the bull with his cloak.

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Picador Provoking The Bull

The bull charges the horses carrying the picadors, who stab him with lances.
The matador or one of his cuadrilla stabs three pairs of banderillas into the bull’s back. These flop over like soft floral kebab skewers.

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Stabbing With Banderillas

The bull then has a few minutes alone with the matador, who, if he is very assured, makes the bull pass very near his body. The bull’s last moments come when the matador changes his shocking pink cape for the ceremonial red one.

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The Final Thrust

The matador is handed a curved sword with which he has to pierce the bull’s heart by entering through the thick muscle of his neck. Just before this point I don’t watch any more, but I look at Colin’s face and see he is wincing.

The ablest of the three matadors we see is called El Fandi. He almost seems to hypnotise the bull to do what he wants, and appears to befriend it and play with it

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Dragging The Bull Around The Ring

The dead bull is dragged around the ring by several decorated horses, an undignified exit for such a lovely animal.

It’s barbaric, ritualistic, sacrificial but unexpectedly beautiful and moving.

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Helen Drinking Wine

After the bull fight, we both feel a bit sad, confused and emotionally quite drained. I’m in need of a stiff drink- but don’t like spirits, so settle for a limp glass of wine.

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