Bullfighting to many if not all Spaniards is a delicate art. This age old tradition called Los toros (meaning the bulls) is a ritual that is anything but a sport. Even though you will struggle to grasp the full splendor and complexity of a bullfight, it still remains an extraordinary experience which you should try to experience at least once during your lifetime. Each year there are around 17 000 bullfights that takes place during which time the Spanish population spend in excess of $1 billion.
Bullfighting season runs from March to October each year and is extremely popular in Andalusia and Madrid. Having been practiced since the middle ages where bullfights were unleashed in town squares, bullfighting depicts Spain’s obsession with mortality and their ever growing fascination of blood and violence. Matadores are also viewed as national celebrities which is hardly surprising given the popularity of this age old event.
During a bullfight, there are three stages. When the bull is let into the ring, the Matador size up his opponent and coax him with a large dark pink cape. During the first stage, horsemen also known as Picadores use long, sharp lances to weaken the bull’s shoulders so that his head will eventually drop, making him an easier kill for the Matador.
During the second stage, assistants on horseback called bandilleros sink colorful pairs of darts into the bull which further weaken him for the matador. In all honesty this is far from a fair fight. In the final stage, the matador will show passes at the bull with a vivid red cape called a muleta along with a chorus of ole. You will hear this resounding throughout the ring as the Matador works up to the kill. Finally, the moment of truth will arrive whereby the Matador will plunge his sword between the bull’s shoulders. If he is successful, the lance will drive straight into the heart whereby the beast will immediately drop dead. If a matador receives the honor of a breathtaking kill, he will earn the right to keep either the tail or ear of the slaughtered animal.
Bullfighting is not for everyone. It dates back to ancient times and is deeply routed in Spain’s dynamic culture. For this vibrant nation it represents honor, but tourists might just view it as senseless slaughter and prolonged agony inflicted on a defenseless animal for the sake of entertainment.