|I feel like a schoolboy who has stolen lollies from the corner store. I feel guilty for doing something I feel I shouldn’t have, yet there is a strange sense of satisfaction at having done it. I have been to a bullfight! In all our years of living in South America, I resolved not to attend a bullfight, repulsed by the very thought of it and angered at such inhumane treatment of an animal. But it seemed permissible here in Spain, particularly here in Seville, the capital of bullfighting in this bullfighting-loving nation.
Bullfights are held every Sunday afternoon in Seville during the summer months. Today it was a youth festival – the three matadors were aged 21-25 years of age. Presumably this is why the tickets were cheaper and we had no trouble obtaining good seats. But still, as the commencement of the event got closer, crowds started making their way to the bullring, filling the 14,000-seat arena to about three-quarter full. Our seats were in the first row of the cheaper stands, three rows from the fence and on the very edge of the ‘sun’ section. (In a bullring, the more expensive seats are in the shade; the cheaper seats are in the sun.) We got there in plenty of time and watched as families with young children, couples out for a date, old men smoking cigars and camera-toting tourists filled the stands. For many locals, this is a weekly event, like footy fans heading to the MCG. The passion and religious fervour was the same as a footy match, only here the crowds had come to watch and celebrate death.
I won’t go into all the details of the fights. (If you want to know more, ask me later.) Suffice to say that over almost two hours, three finely dressed matadors, assisted by banderilleros with their bright pink capes and horse-mounted picadors with their long spears, wooed the crowd with their strutting, chest-puffing and ballet-like movements, teasing the bulls with capes and eventually spearing them to death. The three team of matadors and banderilleros each faced two bulls each, each round lasting for about 20 minutes. A brass band behind us provided music for the action, with two trumpet players to our left introducing key sections of the round. After the bull had been dispatched, to the cheers and ‘ole’s’ of the crowd, it was unceremoniously dragged from the arena by a team of bell-decorated mules.
I have been to a bullfight. I have witnessed the agonising death of six proud bulls. I do not understand the fascination the Spanish have for this ‘sport’. It is heavily ingrained in their culture. Some Spaniards, including the man at the desk of our hotel, refuse to go to the bullring. I can understand why. I went to a bullfight today...but it will be my last.