This entry is a little behind the times and may be a little graphic...you've been warned.
I was conflicted about seeing a bull fight in Seville; on the one hand, I had heard the gruesome and inhumane acts that transpired in the ring, on the other hand, I felt like it was a deep-rooted part of the culture and heritage of Spain and was something that I should experience. Cultural curiosity won out and Dave and I headed to the bullring late on a Sunday afternoon.
My anticipation grew as we sat sweating, the warm afternoon sun in our eyes. The dirt in the ring was being hosed down for the evening's event and the crowd was growing restless. Finally, the trumpeters audibly announced the beginning of the first fight. Three picadores entered the ring and 1000 pounds of angry bull soon followed. In the first stage of the fight, these picadores (the matador's assistants) toyed around with the bull, provoking it with their capes and then ducking behind thick wooden walls when the angry beast would get too close. To me, this seemed to be the only "fair" portion of the fight. During the next part, men on horseback entered the ring, carrying with them long lances with blades on the end. It was their job to drive the lances in between the bull's shoulder blades, drawing large amounts of blood and severely weakening the animal. In the third stage, three banderillas were in the ring and, after provoking the bull to charge in their direction, would stab the bull with barbed spears, furthering the bloodletting.
By the time the matador's portion of the fight came around, I found myself really hoping that somehow the bull would get a good shot in. No need to kill the guy, but a slight goring wouldn't hurt - just a little something to even the score. However, given the animal's state, I knew that this was a long shot, at best. Thoroughly exhausted, discombobulated and back glistening with blood, the bull allowed himself to be led around by the flash of the matador's cape, trying in vein to fight back until his ultimate death.
At last, the matador and bull are in front of death's door and the time has come for the former to push the latter across the threshold by driving his sword into the bull's neck, severing its spinal cord and, theoretically, killing the animal instantly. Perhaps it was the inexperience of the matadors fighting that day or some other mitigating factor, but we only witnessed one clean kill in four fights (there are six fights in a match, but I'd seen enough after four and called it a day). Had any PETA members made it this far, the final stage would surely cause them to pass out, for the lifeless carcass of the bull is then dragged around the stadium by a team of horses as the crowd cheers maniacally.
Such was my first bullfight. As much as I tried to understand everything, I still found the whole thing to be unsettling. It makes very little sense to me that the matador receives all of the acclaim, yet by the time he faces the bull, the animal is already half dead; whereas the performers in all of the other stages seemed to be in more danger. And, while I'm sure it's seeped in tradition, much of the fight seems to be gratuitous cruelty. I can't say that I enjoyed the experience overall, I am still glad to have witnessed it on some level and, should I ever find myself watching another fight, I will continue to pull for the bull.
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