South by Southeast travel blog

whoa!

 

 

the matador

a lesson

 

 

 

Andalusian horse

 

Ronda

Ronda

Ronda

Ronda

Ronda bull ring

Ronda


The first time we went to Spain in 1981 we attended a bull fight. I didn’t think I would enjoy it, and it was even more horrible than I imagined. It wasn’t just a man against a bull. There were other riders on horseback who occasionally put pointed rods into the bull’s neck, which caused him to bleed more and more. Finally the matador plunged a sword behind the bull’s neck and it was over. He was awarded one of the bull’s ears. But it was a big part of Spanish culture and the thing to do. When in Rome...

Bull fighting is still a big part of Spanish culture, but I couldn’t imagine taking a bus load of enlightened Americans to see one today. Instead we went to a huge ranch owned by a matador to learn about bullfighting without the blood. This man was unusual in that he didn’t start bullfighting until he was 34; usually you start in your teens. He had a very successful career an an engineer and sold his business to make his avocation a vocation. He raises bulls and Andalusian horses on his ranch and they live outside in herds in a natural way until the moment of truth arrives. He does not practice with his bulls. Once a bull has fought with a man he understands that the waving cloth has a man behind it and would be more focused in his lunges. Instead he works out the way any professional athlete would with weights and cardiovascular activities. He represented bullfighting more like a dance between a bull and a man. Occasionally this dance is so moving that the crowd watching decides to spare the bull’s life. Then it is very valuable as a breeding sire since it is a known entity. Otherwise breeding is a guessing game, since you have no real way to test how well the bull will perform in the ring. On the ranch herds of about fifty females are serviced annually by one bull over a six month period. He loses about forty pounds fulfilling this obligation. The next six months he rests us to gain his strength for the next go round. No artificial insemination here. Great effort was made to make the lives of the animals as natural as possible. The trees over their heads were heavy with acorns, a favorite food for cattle.

Nearby we visited Ronda, which has a huge bull ring. Our guide said that bullfighting is only popular in certain parts of Spain and some provinces have outlawed it entirely. In Portugal bullfighting is also popular, but the bull is killed out of the view of the fans. Ronda is built around a wide valley that looks more like a crevasse depending on what part of town you are standing in. It’s historical center was well preserved and a nice place to wander.

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