“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

Monday, September 27, 2010

Oh dear God.....this is a bullfight

Hola todos,

I'm sorry it has been a while since my last post. We have been trying to keep busy, so finding time to sit down and blog has been difficult. Class is more of the same - can't wait for it to be over! It's not exactly as "intensive" as I thought it was going to be. I'm anxious to enroll and be in true classes with other students next Monday.

We had a relatively quiet weekend. We were so tired and drained from the week we spent a lot of time watching Spanish movies and relaxing at the beach.

Remember how I had said that we would be going to a "running" of the bulls? Well - Sunday night we ended up at a bullfight. Yes. A bullfight, and I was not at ALL prepared!! Natalie, Teresa, and I had been told by our program director that there was going to be a Festival in San Fernando. She explained that there was going to be a party with people in the streets, music, and other things - or so we thought. We should have done our homework because here in Spain - "festival" is the same as "bullfight."

Anyway, our director said she was going to purchase our tickets, but didn't, so we boarded the bus to San Fernando relatively early on Sunday with the intentions of purchasing them there. At the bus stop, this guy overheard us speaking English, and came over to talk to us. His name is Alex - from Manchester, England - and is here in Cadiz for the year studying. He had just arrived and didn't know anybody in the city. He was relieved to meet some English - speaking people! So he tagged along with us for the night and we had a great time getting to know each other.

The group before the fight!

The bullfight began around 6:30. We chose to sit in the "sol" (sun) because it was such a nice day. Notice in the photo that because of the shape of the arena - you can buy your tickets based on "sombra" (shade) or sol.

So here is some basic information about the bullfight. There are 3 matadores who each fight 2 bulls over the course of the event. Assisting the matadores are picadores who are mounted on horses and hold long spears. They stab the bull. At our bullfight there were 3 picadores. In addition, there are banderilleros - they assist the matadores in distracting the bull. Together - the matadores and the banderilleros are known as "toreros" and you can hear that word being chanted by the crowd throughout the fight. It is also worth mentioning that there is a small army of men and a set of 3 horses who are responsible for dragging the bull from the arena once it is killed. I know, this is a lot to take in, it took until the 4th or 5th bull for us to understand the process.

Here is a photo of the procession that begins the bullfight. 

A bullfight, as gruesome as it may be, is truly an incredible performances. There is a specific sequence of events that must be followed. First, the bull enters the arena and the matador tests his strength. Often, the baderilleros assisted him. This only lasts for a few minutes.

The 3 matadores being praised by the crowd prior to the bullfight

When the trumpet sounds, a picador on horseback enters the arena. The bull is drawn to him and the picador stabs him several times with a spear. The crowd cheered quite loudly during this part. The spear is aimed at the bull's neck to weaken him and this is when we first saw blood.

A bit gruesome
Following this, is another round of taunting the bull. The banderilleros and sometimes the matadores, "dance" with the bull in an attempt to pierce 2 barbed sticks into its back. This happens 2 or 3 times.

Action shot
The last stage is the most dramatic. It involves the matador with his sword and red cape and the bull. Music is playing in the background and it seems like a dance between man and bull. Towards the end of this stage, the matador pierces the bull in the back with his sword in attempt to pierce him in the heart. Sometimes it would take only 1 stab and the bull would be down, other times it would take several.

Just the matador and the bull

 Immediately after the bull hits the ground, other men approach it with a small sword to kill it so it doesn't suffer further. At this point, the ears and tail are usually cut and awarded to the matador and then the bull is dragged off. There was one matador that was fond of throwing the ears into the crowd before he left the stage.

The bull being dragged off   

Presentation of the ears and tail to the matador
 As I mentioned above, we had to endure this process 6 times. None of us were prepared for a bullfight and I have to say, my stomach was upside down and my whole body was tense the entire night. For me to watch 6 bulls be murdered over the course of almost 3 hours was a very intense experience. It took until the last bull for me to actually feel comfortable watching.

I am glad I went. It is something very unique to the Spanish culture and it truly is theatrical. I have spoken to many Spaniards about it and I can understand why some people respect, honor, and appreciate the bull fighting. I also understand why for many it is cruel, inhumane, and gruesome. Nevertheless, it is something that you must see in your life.

That was enough adventure for me for one weekend! Back to the normal routine for this week. We have a trip to the Museum of Cadiz planned for tomorrow afternoon, so be on the lookout for a post tomorrow night!



  1. WOOOOOOOOOW!!!!!!!!! I knew all about this because i saw it on the history channel. I would of had a hard time watching it. It reminds me of my favorite book- Ferdnand the Bull - Love, MOM

  2. Oh girl..I give you credit for watching. There is no way I could have stayed. I don't care if it is their "culture" or not...I'm in the it's very cruel to animals camp. (((shudder)))

    Glad you are enjoying your time in the Sol. I've added Cadiz to my ever growing list of "must visit before I die" places :)

  3. Mom - I knew you were going to make a reference to that book.

    Deb - You have no idea how sick I felt the entire time, it was a good thing I didn't eat before. It was horrible to watch in person. And I'm glad you have added Cadiz to your bucket list, it truly is a wonderful place