April 08, 2010

Corrida de Toros

On a beautiful Easter Sunday evening, a group of 10 amigas set out to experience a time-honored tradition of Spanish culture. With wide-eyed wonder and curiosity abounding, they were headed to the Malagueta to see the festivities. The streets were swarming with stylish Spaniards dressed to impressed. The nearby restaurants were overflowing with people enjoying their pre-dinner tapas and aperitivos while the scent of cigars wafted through the cool Spring breeze.

They entered the plaza in a wave of people. They could feel the anticipation and energy in the air as the crowd worked its way up to the top flight. After pushing their way through the row and filing into their respective seats, the girls were ready just as the band began their rousing march to begin the show. The performers entered the arena to a hefty round of applause and many an "Ole!" before retreating to their respective corners. And now the bullfight can begin!

Sunday marked the beginning of the bull-fighting, or Corrida de Toros, season in Malaga. The seasons generally last from March until October but every region is a little different. Malaga's season has only just begun and it will reach its peak in August for the Feria, or city-wide fair. Spain is all about fiestas :)

Professional corridas in Spain involve 3 matadores that each fight 2 bulls, for a total of 6 bulls. These corridas generally last 2-3 hours as the matadores take turns dancing with their respective bull. And that's exactly what it's like - a dance! And even though they're fighting against 500 lbs of pure muscle, they are so in tune with the animal's tendencies that they can make it do whatever they want, just like a choreographed dance. You can check out the video below to see just what I mean :)

José Tomás during the Tercio de Muerte

We were lucky enough to see what Pepa calls "el mejor matador en Espana" (the best matador in Spain!). His name is José Tomás and he was by far the best matador we saw that night. If the crowd thinks the matador does a fantastic job, the will wave whatever white things they have on hand (napkins, hankerchiefs, toilet paper...) to show their support. If the Presidente of the Plaza agrees with the audience, he'll grant the matador the honor of cutting off the bull's ear as a sort of trophy. And if he is really good, the President will allow them to keep the tail. José Tomás was the only one to earn this honor that night and actually went home with an ear from both bulls!

Cuadrilla during the Tercio de Varas

There are so many traditions and rituals involved in a bullfight that I can't even begin to put it all into a single post. So I'll bullet-point it all in case you want to skip the boring stuff and just go straight to the video!
  • Each matador has 6 assistants that make up his posse, which is called a cuadrilla. Each assistant has a specific job throughout the course of the corrida. The matador wears a traje de luces (suit of lights), which is custom-designed with silver or golden thread.
So fancy! And this guy isn't even a matador - we can go fancier.
  • A corrida is generally broken into 3 stages.
  1. The first stage is called the Tercio de Varas where the cuadrilla tires the bull out and gives the matador a chance to see the bull's personality.
  2. Then the picadores of the group weaken it more by trying to place banderillas (barbed sticks) into the bull's back and shoulders. This is done in the second stage called the Tercio de Banderillas.
  3. The final stage, the Tercio de Muerte, is the most exciting - the dance between the matador and the bull. The matador puts the bull through a series of passes to weaken it and show off his moves. This can be the most gory part as the bull becomes more disoriented and the matador finally puts it out of its misery with a sword.
  • Once the bull is killed, it is immediately butchered and the meat is given to local orphanages and soup kitchens. So while it may not be the most humane sporting event, it does provide a great service for the community. Plus, the bulls have a it made leading up to the corrida - plenty of room to roam around in, tons of food, and their choice of the best ladies for breeding purposes.
This picture captures so much of Malaga - City Hall to the left, a palm tree, and a paloma (dove/pigeon), all silhouetted against a beautiful sunset.

I'm really glad we all got to experience it. One of the girls in our group has been to a bullfight in Madrid on her last trip here so it was great to have her there to tell us what was going on! It's such a unique part of the culture here and it's just another thing crossed off The List. :)


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