A lot of people ask me if bullfighting is really a tradition or simple animal cruelty.
Well, let me give you my point of view. I know that by the time you finish reading this, you will still think that bullfighting is wrong. But let me thank you for the time you are taking to at least try to comprehend our tradition.
I will never deny that at bullfights an animal dies, but let me start with history, so I can try to explain what goes on during bullfighting.
We need to go back to Roman times. Spain (Iberia or Hispania in those times), like the rest of todays Europe was under the Roman Empire. We all know that at the Colliseums, Romans used to free Lions and tigers to the Christians. Here in Spain they used to free bulls to us, the Christians. Thist is how bullfighting started. Just trying to survive from the attack of the bull. If you have travelled around Europe, you provably have realized that in the Mediterranean culture, the bull is the most respected animal. In ancient mythology we use the bull as a Holly animal, for example, we have the representation of the miniature (half bull, half human) , we also have Zeus transforming himself into a bull to kidnap Europe. So the bull has always been a superior creature when you compare him to humans.
So as bullfighting is a Roman thing, somebody has to die. The creature that will die is the bull. But he is giving a chance to survive, that chance will be given by the “matador”. People always believes that the Matador is the bad person in the arena, but far from that. His job is not to kill the animal, it is to safe the animals life. They are the only people I know who risk their lives to safe the life of an animal.
The “corrida” (bullfight) has 6 bulls and 3 matadors. Each bullfighter will fight 2 bulls. This is not an on going issue, it has a very strict timing. In the moment the bull touches the arena, he has to be out of there (dead or alive) in 25 minutes. The timing is controlled by the president of the corrida. You will find him/her wearing a dark suit, seated in a special place across the arena from where the bulls come out. Just as a Roman Emperor. The president is the one who decides the fate of the animal, NEVER the bullfighter.
When the fight starts, the bullfighter on his own, will welcome the bull with a big cape (capote) This one is fucsia pink on one side and yellow on the other. This will be the beginning of a friendship. The bullfighter will learn all the weaknesses of the bull. Not to show them, but to hide them. His job is to make the animal look what he is, a God: powerfull, strong, fearless…..
The bullfighter will go, and the Picador will come. This one is a man on top of a horse. The horse is protected with a vest made of bullet prove material. This will be the first time the bull will feel pain in his life. He will be stabbed twice, and depending on how he reacts to the pain, the fear… it will be one on the bulls side.
Then the Picador goes and the banderillas come. These are 3 sets of 2 sticks that goin the back of the bull. And once again, depending on the reaction of the bull, it will count on his side. The technique of banderillas is very difficult, because you really need to go very close to the bull, and the bull learns. So the 3th set is very risky.
Then the Banderillas go and the Matador returns on his own to the ring. This time he will be wearing a red cape (muleta). This is the moment of truth. The matador will try with their dance to make the bull look as the perfect creature. It is to me the most beautiful moment during the corrida. They become one soul. A good matador will be the bulls shadow, will be his breath, they will become one. When this happens, the president will give his thumb up, and the bull will be taken alive out of the ring. The rest of the life of that bull will be great. Let’s face it, we want to have many, many baby bulls like him…. So he will be eating the best grass and meeting the most beautiful cows….
On the other hand, if they don’t create this magic. If perfection is not created, the president will put his thumb down, and the expected fate of the bull will take place. The president will give the matador a moment with the bull, so he can say goodbye to his friend. This part is very private and has a lot of that XVIII century romanticism. The bullfighter will have a chance to apologize to the bull for pretending to help a God, he will confort the bull with his dance. And at the end he will lead the bull to death. A very proud and fast death.
I know it is difficult to understand, specially in todays society where we deny death, but in the arena we honor life. We do not celebrate the death of the animal, we celebrate his beauty, his strength, his respect for life.
Once again, thanks for reading this post all the way through, and at least for giving me a chance to try to explain our traditions.