||On Sunday 9/27/98
I went to my first bullfight. It was held at TJ's Bullring-By-The-Sea.
It started at 4PM and lasted about two hours. There were eight bulls.
A taxi from the ZN cost $10 to get there, but $12 for the return because
of the extra traffic. There are two groups of ticket booths, one on the
left (west) and one on the right (east). They are marked as "shady"
and "sunny" respectively. I am fair skinned and like to stay
out of the sun, but my chica, who is a dancer in one of the ZN clubs,
likes the sun. So I get tickets in the first row on the sunny side. They
are $27 each. After the fights start, I notice that many of the locals
move down from their inferior seats to the front rows. There are two seating
levels in the ring, and you need to be on the lower level to do this.
Probably the best bet is to purchase tickets high up in the lower level,
then move down once the fights start. The arena was surprisingly small,
and often the action was just a few yards away. I kicked myself for not
bringing my camera.
A bullfight has several parts to it. First the bull is introduced by a
handler who holds aloft a large placard showing the bull's name and weight.
When he is released the matador and two assistants alternately attract
his attention and run him wildly around the ring to tire him out a bit.
Then the matador will spar with the bull for awhile. This is when the
bull is fresh, and he is most dangerous. Next, the bull is bled to weaken
him. This is done by a horsemen wielding a long lance, about one inch
in diameter. The horse is heavily padded, and the bull is coaxed into
trying to throw the horse. In this position, the rider stabs the bull
in the shoulder, and pushes the lance into the wound. If the crowd believes
that the rider is weakening the bull too much by opening too many wounds
they will boo and cry "go home!"
The matador now attempts to plant three pairs of short barbed spears into
the bull's shoulder. He drops his cape, and takes the spears, one in each
hand. He will strike a beautiful pose with the spears held high and pointing
down and to the front. From across the ring, he will race directly at
the bull, which will charge him as he gets close. The matador must plant
both spears in the bull's shoulder, and he must do this three times. It
is good form to place all six spears.
The matador will spar with the bull some more. When he believes the time
for the kill has come, he will take up a short sword that is about two
feet long and slightly curved. The object is to insert the sword into
the bull's shoulder and along the spine, up to its hilt. To do this, the
matador will stand directly in front of the bull, about five feet away.
He raises the sword to his eye and sights the point to his target. His
stroke must be lightening fast, for if the bull moves he will miss the
target and bumble the kill. This is the most crucial part of the fight.
It is bad form to bungle the kill, and requires that the sword be retrieved
and another attempt made. The crown really wants and loves a perfect kill;
it brings them up out of their seats, roaring.
On this Sunday, there was one good fight, one great fight, one horribly
bad fight and five just so-so fights. In the great fight the matador was
thrown by the bull. He was not gored, but it created a level of excitement
that was palpable. The matador pounded his chest and taunted the bull,
who pawed the dirt and snorted his own challenge. The matador sparred
with the bull some more, the crowd yelling "ole!" on each pass.
He worked the bull to a position just several yards to my left. He raised
his sword and sighted along the blade. He struck so swiftly and with such
fluid motion that there was no chance for the bull to react. He struck
the perfect spot, and buried the sword to the hilt. The bull stood motionless
for about two seconds, raising his head slightly to look quizzically at
his foe. Then he dropped heavily to his knees, as if in worship of his
master. The matador raised his arms in victory before his fallen foe.
The crowd went mad. This matador took a slow walk through the arena, greeting
members of the crowd, who sometimes threw things down to him. These he
would touch and then throw back to their owners. Flowers he kept. This
was an interesting experience for me, and an enjoyable way to pass a Sunday
afternoon in TJ. Next time, I'll take my camera, and I'll send along some