KarlieMacG V The Spanish Bullfighting Tradition, Madrid

Well here goes, this could be my most controversial blog to date as I did it, I went and disappointed a whole bunch of my friends when I went to see a Bullfight in Madrid recently.

“Gah! how could you???” they said, “No way, NEVER” they cried and one kind soul even said, “Do you actually know WHAT you are going to watch?” I wasn’t overly sure to be honest, I went because my friends wanted to go and basically it meant I would be left alone and I got to thinking that not only did I not want to be alone, I wanted to see this tradition and make up my own mind. I’m completely squeamish, I don’t watch horror films and any horrible thing in life is usually viewed from behind my hands. I’m truly a typical girl in this respect. So you may wonder why on earth I went. I sometimes confuse myself with someone tougher than I am, don’t get me wrong I’m very feisty and will drop kick you in a second if you crossed me, but the horrible things in life are not for me and it was a brave move on my part.

I reasoned with myself that it was going to happen whether I went or not and I could take this chance in life and go and decide for myself what was what. So with that in mind I found myself entering the very male occupied Bull Ring Stadium in Madrid, Las Ventas. We were sat in the top tier, so, pretty far away from the action(this was a good thing). I felt as close as I would ever come to being in the Colosseums of ancient Rome. Now, I don’t know if you’ve sussed from reading my blogs but the thing that appeals most to me about sport is the history. The history in Spanish Bullfighting is rich, dating back to the 1700’s. The Matador’s are renowned in their countries and just as famous as footballers. It is a sport that attracts over a million spectators a year in Spain.

So I guess you want to know what happened? Ok then, here goes and don’t read if you’re at all squeamish.

The first Bull came into the ring and for me it all fell apart, all my bravado and tough talk disappeared as this animal run down the tunnel, the door was locked and it looked backwards as it to say, “What? Why you locking the door??” it was also wagging it’s tail, which could have been in anger but to me made it look like a dog! I didn’t watch. I sipped my beer. I wanted to see the theatrical moves of the Matador’s, I wanted to see the beauty I had heard about, the dancing and so I looked on again. And it was there. The way the Matador swung his cape about and the Bull charged was truly theatrical but very slow. I was rooting for the Bull the whole time and once he charged the Matador and he fell on the floor. It made me think instantly that I may have come here to see an animal dance with death but I certainly hadn’t come to see a man dance with death. I couldn’t do it, I gasped and for a second I thought I was in hell. It passed quickly and the Matador was soon up and back to waving his flag. I settled in to watch again with curiosity, I’d only ever seen clips on TV or YouTube stills, so to see it live was, I will admit, fascinating.

When the time came to kill the Bull, my Spanish friends warned me and I looked away. Suddenly the crowd were booing the Matador and shouting abuse. I looked from between my fingers and (PLEASE DONT READ IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH) the bull was spitting blood. Apparently the Matador had killed it badly and the crowd were angry at the Matador for making the animal suffer. Everyone around began averting their eyes and groaning. Soon it was over and the animal was out of its misery. I sat a bit dazed. I’d seen more than I wanted to. I know I ate meat and we killed animals everyday for this purpose but I’m very much a field to packet girl, no thought of the in between. I felt sick and dizzy. If my friends had said they wanted leave I would have without a backward glance. Instead they said this i was out of the ordinary and the Matador was not very good. They said the crowd around me where saying in Spanish that there was too much blood and it wasn’t nice. I felt reassured I wasn’t sitting within a bunch of blood hungry people and settled back with my beer and gazed out over the city of Madrid.

The next Matador up was a much better one, and the crowd waved their white flags at him. The others that followed varied in skill and I say this with trepidation as I’m not sure if I got immune to watching the Bullfighting, I certainly didn’t watch the endings. I watched the skill instead and was able to appreciate the beauty in the fight. At the end of the day it was a real live man in there and it was a real live Bull and one of them was going to get hurt. It bore a strong sense of masculinity for me. Man fighting beast. A symbol of masculinity. Here in the UK a symbol of masculinity resembles how much cider you can drink until you fall over, how many guys you can fight on a Saturday down at the Red Lion,  how many modifications you can make to your Corsa or how many girls you can keep on the go at one time, in Spain it was fighting a Bull.

My Jury is out on Bull fighting, I certainly don’t support it. These bulls are bred for nothing but BullFighting, generations of families pride themselves on supplying the requirement. There is so much history seeping through these stadiums the romantic side of my nature cannot help but be awed slightly. It’s a very primal thing. Years and years ago this was normal, now, not so. The Spanish people are very aware of the views of Bullfighting to the rest of the country. My friends seemed almost embarrassed about it and I thought this was a little unfair. Every country has something that is completely normal to them, be it BullFighting or other stuff, (I actually deleted a bunch of examples as I thought it was too risky there) and so I think as much as it’s not our cup of tea, it happens.

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