Bull fighting in Spain
Bull fighting is very closely associated with Spain and can trace its origins back to 711 A.D. This is when the first bullfight took place in celebration for the crowning of King Alfonso VIII. It is very popular in Spain with several thousand Spaniards flocking to their local bull-ring each week. It is said that the total number of people watching bullfights in Spain reaches one million every year.
Bull fighting was originally a sport for the aristocracy and took place on horseback. King Felipe V took exception to the sport however and banned the aristocracy from taking part, believing it to be a bad example to the public. After the ban commoners accepted the sport as their own and, since they could not afford horses, developed the practice of dodging the bulls on foot, unarmed. This transformation occurred around 1724.
Bull fighting is a highly ritualised tradition in Spain. It is a spectacle in full colours, costumes and music. Whatever your views on the moral issues of corrida, this event will leave a deep cultural impression. The corrida is still a very contemporary thing in Spain, although there has been more movement by pressure groups to declare it a backward barbarity. The torreros (bull-fighters) enjoy the same status as football stars. They get endorsed by corporations and appear all over the press. However, bull fighting is also about the bull. A bull who fights gets honoured, as well as his owner. Those bulls are of a rare noble breed.
The bull always gets killed. It may be a difficult decision for you to participate in watching the corrida or not.
So what happens during a bullfight?
Firstly the bull is let into the ring. Then, the top bullfighter called the Matador, watches his chief assistant wave a bright yellow and magenta cape in front of the bull to make it charge. He watches this in order to determine the bulls qualities and mood, before taking over himself.
Then a trumpet is sounded and several fighters called Picadores weaken the bull by placing spears into it. This takes around 10 minutes.
Another trumpet is sounded and the Matador now removes his black winged hat and dedicates the death of the bull to the president or the crowd before beginning his faena.
The faena which is the most skilful section of the fight and where the matador must prove his courage and artistry. The faena consists of a running at the Matador carrying a muleta. This is a piece of thick crimson cloth draped over a short stick, which can be held in either the left hand or draped over the espada, the killing sword, which is always held in the right hand. Usually the muleta, in left or right hand, is first held in front of the matador to make the bull charge and is then swung across and away from the matadors body hopefully taking the bull with it.
This is a show, basically a dance with death – one wrong move and the Matador could become impaled on the horns of the bull. It is the Matadors job to make this dance dramatic and enjoyable for the audience.
The faena continues until the Matador has demonstrated his superiority over the bull. Once this is achieved the bull is ready to be killed.
The matador stands some ten feet from the bull, keeping the bull fixated on the muleta and aims the espada between the shoulder blades. The matador attacks pushing the espada over the horns and deep between the shoulder blades. If the sword goes in to the hilt it is an estocada but if it hits bone it is a pinchazo or media-estocada. An estocada usually results in the bull dropping immediately to its knees and dying, but if the bull fails to die the matador may take the descabello (a sword with a short cross piece at the end) which he stabs into the bulls neck severing the spinal cord. The fight is over.
The matador may be awarded trophies by the president, according to his skill in working with the bull, which can be one or two ears from the bull, the tail and the hoof. The crowd will often encourage the president to award the trophies by waving white handkerchiefs, and this waving continues after the trophies have been awarded in an attempt to get the matador to throw his trophies into the crowd. The crowd in return hurls flowers which are collected by the matadors assistants.
Bullring Valenica / Plaza de Toros, Valencia
The Plaza de Toros in Valencia is a spectacular building just by the train station, in the centre of the city, built a-la Roman amphitheatre. You can have a small look at its interior from the Museum Taurino any time of the year. Most of the year Plaza de Toros is used for various concerts, congregations and cultural events.
The actual bull-fighting (corrida) in Valencia takes place three times a year:
Spring Season during Las Fallas, March
Summer Season during the Feria de Julio, July
Autumn Season during October
Bullfighting terms and languag
Muleta – A small red cloth stretched over a stick (Palo)
Capote – The red cape
Paseillo – The parade of fighters at the beginning
Corrida – A Bullfighting show
Espada – The matadors sword also called the ESTOQUE
Matador – The top bullfighter
Novilladas – Beginners fights
Rejoneadores – Horse-mounted fighters
Toril – Enclosure for the bulls
Picador – Fighter to weaken the bull
Banderillas – Barbed darts on coloured shafts placed into the bulls shoulders
Puntilla – A dagger that is stabbed into the base of the bulls skull
Puerta grande – The main door to the arena
Gradas – Highest seats at the back of the ring (cheapest seats)
Barreras – Front seats
Sol/Sombra – Sun/Shade – the choice as to where you sit
Plaza de Toros – Bullring