Sunday, March 2, 2008

Corrida de Toros (Bull Fight) 3.2.08

What a fantastic day!! I didn’t want to give away the big surprise before today…we got to see a Bull fight!!

It was very interesting to get tickets…we knew they went on sale on Thursday and so we went to the Bull ring to pick them up. It was at a place called “Plaza de Toros Eduardo Fountanet” which is simply the Eduardo Fountanet Bull Ring and we headed out there on Friday to pick up tickets for us, Anne & Jeff on Outrider, & Danni on Kinship. We went to the bull ring but the place was deserted except for two workers who were on a 40’ ladder fixing some lamps so we asked them if we could purchase tickets before Sunday. “Si, Via Rapida” was their response….which luckily I knew that the store on the corner was called Via Rapida – it’s a drive-thru convenience store where you can even buy cold beer. We had been working on our Spanish to say “I want to buy 5 tickets in the preferred seating in the sun for Sunday’s bull fight” and had it down pretty good. When we walked up to the Via Rapida…they had the music blaring so loudly you couldn’t hear yourself think…only making the language barrier harder to navigate! We asked for the tickets, and then I had the questions of when the gates open which instead of asking when, asked where….where do the gates open? I asked twice…and each time the gal pointed to the bull ring…until I realized my mistake! Finally asking the right question and getting our tickets, we headed back out – it was a success!! We are going to a bull fight!

Honestly I have mixed feelings going – on one side, I can’t wait to participate in a cultural experience unique to this area however I do have the other side of me that’s an animal lover. Here's the four that went - Anne & Jeff from Outrider, Danni from Kinship, & Michael.

It was amazing though, a very interesting day. The show started at 4pm and the gates opened up at 3pm. There was no assigned seating, only preferred seats either in the sun or in the shade and on top of that was general seating. We got to the ring around 3pm and found seats on the 3rd row. The ring was much smaller than I expected and we were very close! There were vendors walking around the stands selling everything you would want…beer, candies, popcorn, peanuts, cigarettes, chips, etc. The beer guys carried a bucket of beers, on ice, and after selling all they had, would go back to the main spot & get more.

You didn’t have to leave your seat for anything – just yelled “cerveca” and had a cold beer in seconds. I had read earlier in the day about bull fighting in Mexico and had a ‘worst case’ expectation of what was to come. Today was somewhat different from traditional bull fights, as both of the featured bull fighters were to be mounted on horses, called “los rejoneadores”. Each bull fighter had two bulls to compete with. The show was certainly not for the squeamish, and definitely was not for animal lovers, but was absolutely amazing.

“The corrida de toros is not actually considered to be a fight. Rather, it is a demonstration of supreme control by the matador over himself, to dominate his natural fear; control over the bull, both to escape its deadly horns and to lead it through the traditional cape passes; and control over the crowd.” -- from The People’s Guide to Mexico.

The matadors certainly gave a show – they were wooing the crowd with amazing maneuvers with the horse, as well as amazing displays on the horse. They would bend over backward over the horse to land a hit, would lean way over to the side, and could get the horse to do some amazing footwork as well. Turning & running with the bull right at his hind quarters, it was amazing. The matador had to ride a fine line…letting the bull get close enough to jab him, but yet keeping the bull far enough away to not injure the horse! It was sooo close several times!

The bull fight has three phases, called ‘tercios’. The first one is called ‘puyazos’ or stabs. The matador hits the bull with 2-3 brightly colored long lances in the shoulder muscles, which weaken the bull’s ability to hold his head high, therefore exposing the entry point for the killing sword thrust that will end the fight. The 2nd phase is called ‘banderillas’. The matador leaves the arena to switch horses and men on foot and brightly dressed do cape passes ‘tercio de quites’ until the matador returns. Once he is back, the 2nd phase includes hitting the bull with brightly colored short darts again in the shoulder muscles. The number of darts & lances the matador can use depends on the bull & the judges must approve each time a stab is given. Finally, the moment of truth, the final phase is called “estocada” meaning sword thrust.

The matador is judged on 5 criteria: ‘Aguantar’ is restraint or control, ‘parar’ or posture, ‘mandar’ command, ‘templar’ which is style or timing, & finally…’faena’ the killing of the bull. A good corrida (bull fight) ends with the awarding of one or more parts of the bull to the matador. One ear is good, two are great and the addition of the tail is fantastic. Both of these matadors were given two ears. The judges sat at the top of the stadium and each matador asked permission for all of the next actions. There were four bulls – each weighing approx 1,000 lbs. They were all from the ‘Mar de Nubes’ cattle ranch. The worst thing to happen to a cattle ranch is to have its bulls called ‘mansos’ or meek. If the bull doesn’t display the proper degree of ferocity, the judge orders it back to the corral for immediate slaughter. If three bulls are manso, the cattle ranch is disgraced and its bulls are banned for one year. The bulls are dressed & butchered on the spot and the meat is sold to the public.

‘Ole’ is what is chanted as the men on foot work the cape passes.

‘Toro, Toro!’ is actually a derogatory term, one we didn’t hear at all. It is chanted to tell the judges and matador that the bull is running the show. There was a large band that played most of the time, and when they were not playing there were shouts of ‘musica!’ to get them to start playing again.

So how was it? Again, it was very interesting, a cultural experience I am happy I witnessed. I was not as amazed or disgusted as I though I would be, in fact, I enjoyed the show. I guess I've bonded with my 'inner gladiator'. I would go again, especially to a larger venue as the showmanship of the matador and everyone involved was spectacular. There were only the 5 of us from the marina that attended and everyone seems to know and keeps asking us 'how we liked it''s been a great conversation piece.
With each of the shows, there was a part where several (8-12) young men would come out onto the ring and stand in single file, the front guy wearing an elf hat & taunting the bull. The bull would run right at them, the front guy would be hit/picked up by the bull and all of the other guys would jump on him & the bull to get him under control by shutting his eyes. Then in a very coordinated move, they would all jump off of him and run away. It was amazing to watch them – two times the main guy was either bucked or almost trampled! It was something of an honor for them to tackle the bull & come away with no problems. One such display ended up with one of the guys thrown from the bull & tumbled a couple times by it. He walked away totally disgraced and when his fellow guys came over to talk to him, he just shooed them away, obviously disgusted with himself. Check out this link to the local paper the 'Noreste'...and be sure to click on the photos - there's 3 more photos of similar pictures... (click the words "Ver Galleria" right under the main picture to see the photos)

Here's a picture and a video from my vantage point...

Before each phase, the matador would go over to the side of the ring and drink from a silver cup. We wondered what it could be he was drinking….tequila?...water? Finally, Danni deduced it must be ‘Red bull’…hahaha… aw, c’mon…you know that was funny. Each matador brought his own lances, darts, & swords and had several assistants that ran the items over to him in the ring when he needed them. The matadors had excellent showmanship & at one time even tied the reins of the horse to their belt to use both hands, plunging two lances into the bull at the same time.

After the bull was killed, workers from the stadium would place it on a sled and a Clydesdale horse would pull it from the stadium. On the final two rounds, the ears were removed and given to the matadors. One matador threw them into the crowd!! Oh, and the matadors would walk around the entire ring after the match, with tons of cheers from the crowd. Those in the crowd would throw things into the ring – hats, stadium cushions, purses, & shirts and the matador would pick them up & throw them back into the stadium. Those who caught it would pass it back to its owner. One purse was thrown empty and was returned with one of the hats the young men wore (they were like elves hats). They also threw down hip flasks filled with what I can only imagine was beer or tequila. The matador would open it up, take a drink, offer it to his compadres, then throw it back up into the crowds. The two matadors were extremely good looking – one was much smaller in size than the other, but each wore beautiful outfits. The horses were also dressed up with ribbon in their manes & beautiful saddles. Flowers were also given to the matadors after each fight, thrown from the crowd.

I have a couple pictures & videos below. Again, not exactly for the squeamish, but if you’re up to them, they’re pretty good! They’re nice & small videos though and not of the final blow. Jeff also took some photos so when I get them, I’ll post any good ones. Here's another link from the local paper the "Noreste"....check it out!

Here he's just 'landed' a lance with his left hand, in an almost acrobatic move...

Again with the acrobatic moves... When the lances hit, the tip was left in the shoulders of the bull and a flag came out of the end of the lance - which he waved in triumph.

Here, he's taunting the bull - touching his head as he runs after the horse.

A very close call - when the bull came so close, you could hear the audience gasp in unison!

A good blow - right in the shoulder blades...

The final blow - the head of the bull is down, the sword is in the fighter's hands...a perfect execution.

The award of two ears!

The two ears in his hand, the young guy following with the 'elf' hat in his hands...

This video shows the horse dancing around, and a hit to the bull - and a retaliation from the bull...the best one that I was able to get that showed both in the same clip. Again, not for the squeemish...


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