Bullfighting is a controversial topic to be sure. Both sides have their arsenal of arguments and reasons why they believe the other side is in the wrong and should change. But regardless of stance, I firmly believe that one can only judge something after they understand it. And in this case, that meant experiencing it. Thus I believe that anyone who intends to have strong opinions on it should go to at least one so at least their judgments are educated and based on first hand experience.
And we did just that. Bullfighting is quite the cultural activity. It is not just a free-for-all against a bull. It is a very organized ancient dance with impending death. It is a dance, an art form, which brings Spaniards together in a very traditional way. Is it a bit barbaric? Of course. Even those who enjoy the sport, like my host mother, can’t deny that it is a bit gruesome. But that is not the reason they love it. Contrary to some beliefs, it isn’t that blood or the animal cruelty that draws people in. There is something there, right under the surface that an untrained eye may not pick up if they are too focused on what they are seeing. Bullfighting represents courage, an inevitable fight with death, and the overcoming of the struggles and hardships of mortality. In fact, we had the fortune to sit next to the section of hard core fans. They began to whistle and boo when the fight took too long because they thought they were making the bull suffer unnecessarily. Often when the torero goes in to place the sword in the heart, they miss and hit the lungs. This leads to a lot of blood and is also very frowned upon. From these experiences, I can conclude that even the hard core fans are in it for more than the bloodlust and the killing of an animal. An animal that, by the way, will be used for food just like it would have been without being in a ring. And if I was a bull sentenced to death at birth, I’d want to be a bullfighting bull and go down with a fight.
Something rather unique happened during the third bull fight. He was already stumbling right after the picadoras stage and the entire stadium began to clap in a specific 3 count rhythm. Apparently it meant they didn’t think it was a fair fight and they wanted a new bull for the torero. The president of the fight relented and they sent in small herd of female cows to lead that bull out of the arena, something I had never heard of happening and which was very entertaining to watch.
Another thing I’ve learned is that Spaniards are quite passionate. I could go on and on about the small nuances of bullfight because the rules and history are just fascinating. The final torero was obviously a crowd favorite but struggled to place his sword in. On his third try he missed but somehow ended up on the ground as the bull tried his best to end the matador’s life. He was alright but it was a startling reminder that these people are putting their lives in grave danger. It’s reckless and stupid but I suppose that is the right of being human with all our faults and ambitions.