Spending the last week in Madrid we have gotten a taste for the food, culture and art that the city has to offer. We decided it for time for some entertainment that was distinctly Spanish. What better than a bullfight?
I don't think we have seen something on this trip that was more exhilarating, impressive, and barbaric. The stadium is all granite and concrete and we had second row seats in the giant circled shaped coliseum. There would be six bullfights in total with three matadors trading off turns. To begin the show all the participates enters the stadium in a paseíllo accompanied by music. The show begins with the matador and banderilleros using a magenta and gold cape to tire the bull out and learn it's quirks and behavior. Next a picador enters on horseback and uses a vara to stab the bull on the back of neck, which weakens and agitates the bull. To further injure and tire the bull the tercio de banderillas enter the ring and stab the bull with banderillas. These small stakes stay imbedded in the bull. Finally the matadors takes stage again and begins his dance with the bull, this time using the red cape. The final performance with the bull can last some time before the matador goes in for the kill. He feeds off the crowd and determines the best moment to drive home his sword.
The first five fights went smoothly with the third matador being the most impressive performer. Each bull was killed, some more easily than the others and each matador escaped unscathed. For the sixth and final fight the third matador entered the ring for the second time. He played the role of each banderillero, tiring the bull and even stabbing it with the banderillas. After he succeeded with the first set the crowd went wild. He grabbed two more banderilla and broke them in half. Now instead the length of a sword they were barely the length of a small dagger. He went in to stab the bull again, but due to their length he got too close to the bull and it tossed him to the side. The matador rolled to the side before getting trampled and escaped uninjured. He continued the show, dancing and dodging the bull. The time came to make the kill. The matador grabbed his sword and prepared to make a single thrust kill as he had with the last bull. He danced to the side and made a thrust. The sword drove in about half way, but it was the clear the bull was not finished. Eventually the sword fell out and the matador retrieved it. He tried again and failed. Again he tried. Another failure. This process continued until finally the matador again got too close in his impatience to make the kill. This time the bull gored him in the leg, but the matador slipped away. He continued the show, but now with a heavy limp. Again he went in for the kill, but with the limp he was too slow to dodge the bull. It caught him and flipped him in the air like a rag doll. The matador went down hard after a full backward flip on to his head. He sprang back to his feet, but stumbled back and fell over; he was finished. The matador was rushed out of the ring. Eventually the only the bull remained, breathing hard and gushing blood, but still standing. After a few minutes, a side gate opened and a small herd of bulls entered the ring. They ran around the injured bull for about ten minutes then returned to their pen. We later learned this was an attempt to save the bull. If it had returned to the pen with the herd, it would have been saved and treated like king and used for breeding for the rest of it's days. Since it did not return, it was determined it was too badly injured and the bull was killed by a banderillero. The final tally was matadors 5, bulls 1. Something that rarely happens.
We were glad to see a bullfight, but agreed that one time was enough. The event was a bit too gruesome for multiple viewings. On the flip side it was a impressive spectacle and a unique part of Spanish culture. Madrid climbing next! -Esteban