Tears are welling up behind my dark sunglasses. Around me people are waving white handkerchiefs and the encouraging “olés” can be heard all over La Glorieta. I knew I shouldn’t have come… What was I thinking?
It all started the day before, when travelling from León to Salamanca. In the bus station my attention was drawn towards the numerous posters advertising Salamanca’s “Feria Taurina” or “bullfighting festival”. I had always been curious about this Spanish tradition or what some even call “art form”. But at the same time I was very wary of assisting. Of course I didn’t agree with the slaughtering of an innocent animal just for pleasure, but like many others before me I really wanted to try to understand what thrives thousands of Spaniards to be so passionate about it! I wanted to find out what happens at a bullfight.
21,50€ later, I find myself at the entrance of La Glorieta, Salamanca’s very own bullring. I am amazed by the sheer size of it, there must be at least 10.000 seats! Being early means I have time to read about the rules and regulations. I struggle with terms like ‘banderilleros’, ‘picadores’ and ‘estocada’, I learn that there are 3 different stages in each fight and that apparently I am in for 3 different matadors fighting 6 different bulls!
At 7 pm, the first bull enters, accompanied by the fanfare and trumpets of the brass band. I’m still not sure if I made the right decision to come…
During the first part, the ‘picadores’, sitting on armoured horses, attack the bull with long pole-sticks to try and weaken its neck muscles. As the bull goes for the horses, I already start to feel quite uncomfortable… The matador (the person who actually kills the bull in the end) observes the bull’s behaviour closely and swings his cape around to draw its attention away from the horses.
During the second phase, things start to get serious: the ‘banderilleros’ are brought in. These are the people that try to stick what I can only describe as a huge darts between the bull’s neck and shoulder to weaken it further. Blood starts to appear and I am starting to get more and more uncomfortable, realizing that I am watching an animal slowly getting killed…Each stage lasts for about 20 minutes, if they are going to kill the poor animal, I hope they’ll to do it straight away!
Finally the matador starts moving forward encouraged by the public every time he swirls his cape graciously, causing the bull to charge and pass. The bull seems to be raging by now: all of a sudden the matador is taken up the bull’s horns and thrown off a few meters further. People hold in their breath: “is he going to be alright”? Unfortunately for the bull he is… He gets up and when the bull charges again, hanging his head, the matador thrusts his sword into the bull, killing it instantly!
I hide behind my sunglasses, crying, while the public, satisfied with seeing a brave fight, waves their white handkerchiefs, meaning the matador could be honoured by taking the bull’s ear or tail home…
There are five more fights to watch, but I have enough! While the matador does his round of honour, the carcass of the bull is taken out of the arena by harnessed horses and I am heading home.
So what has going to a bullfight taught me?
I am happy I got to learn some of the rules and regulations and got to see and live the passion a lot of Spanish people still have for the bullfighting. On the other hand, I feel guilty, because my curiousness and money helped financing the bull’s and future bulls’ death….
So, will I go again? No! Call it tradition, call it art, call it sports, …in the end an innocent animal gets killed and I’m afraid there simply aren’t any excuses for that!
If you have been touched by this article and would like to see bullfighting banned, please take a moment to sign this petition: http://www.cas-international.org/en/pages/petition.html