Why We Like Bullfighting?

by admin on November 21, 2009

“El momento de la verdad”

The day is hot, and the crowd grows for the spectacle.  There isn’t much of a breeze; many lady spectators bring out their fans, orpericones, to keep cool.  There is tension in the air, and the men of the crowd are craning their neck to better see the entrance for the toreros, which will be coming out first, before the Matador. This is the Plaza de Toros de León, and is one of the greatest in Spain, the León Bullring.

The toreros come out into the dusty arena, bowing and holding their hands up in salute to the crowd.  The crowds’ voice rises to a frenzied pitch, and it becomes hard to even hear yourself shout above the din.  Then, at a tense moment, the novillos, or young bull, is released.  The bullfight has begun.

The young bull does not really have a chance with three toreros taunting him, and this show is soon seen as just the warm-up to the grand show.  Banderilleros filter in and encroach on the stout young bull, which is moving very quickly among the toreros. They must dodge repeatedly at the attacks the bull is making; he is not running from them, but trying to gore every last one of them.

The bravery of the novillos pays off, and he is let out of the bullring.  This warm-up for the toreros is only the beginning of this arduous and methodical, if not incredibly dangerous, exercise.  The next bull to be let into the bullring is much bigger, much wiser, and has every intention of doing serious bodily harm.  The Matador enters the corrida, or bullfight.  He is resplendent in his sparkly trajes de luces, or suit of lights.  The other toreros are also wearing this garb, but the central attention is for the star bullfighter.

The banderilleros and picadors all enter the ring, picadors on horseback.  This will be a coordinated bullfight, but the whole of the spectator’s eyes are on the Matador, and his flying cape.  As the others move strategically to get the bull in closer to the star, he uses his cape to both confuse and entice the bull closer.

The crowd goes absolutely wild when the bull is only inches from the Matador, its horns grazing his left thigh as he spins, dust filling the air around him as the sun sparkles off his suit.  There are now many small banderillas in the bulls shoulder, causing it to dip its head while charging the bullfighter.  This gives the Matador an opportunity to strike with his estoque, the sword that was hidden in his cape, or muleta.  The bullfighter executes a move known as the manoletina, in which he is deadly close to the enraged bull.  The strike has to be swift.  The strike has to be sure.  It is the moment of truth.

Seeing this spectacle for the first time brought out the poetic side of Ernest Hemmingway, and he touched on the fluidity, the purity, and the metaphysics in his work, Death in the Afternoon, a book exclusively about bullfighting. He was so impressed by what he witnessed that he actually thought about being a Matador, and even tried his hand at it, but stuck to writing instead.