Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honor.”   Ernest Hemingway

Bullfighting is said to be a sport of bravery, heart and showmanship. Descendents of the majestic Iberian bulls are bred for vigor, strength and a raging temperament. Bullfighting is seen as a culturally rich spectator sport for some, but others see it as animal brutality.

“This notion that it is a ballet of life and death strikes me as puerile,” said history professor Barry Horlor. “It really is an example of human arrogance in sadism and should stop. I see no need to torture a bull in the name of machismo and vanity, that makes me a boy not a man, a fool not wise and a sadist, not compassionate and I don’t care what ritual what bullshit what Hemingway story you use. It’s awful!”

Adrian Venegas, 21, dental hygiene major, said he sees it differently. About three years ago he went to a bullfight with friends.

“It is more of a cultural thing,” he said. “It is fun to watch but is not fair to the animal.

I respect it in a cultural way, but not in the perspective of animal cruelty.”

Spanish bullfighting known as the, “corrida” originated in Spain in the 1100’s to commemorate kings and allow noblemen to show off the skill of battle that allowed them to take back their Iberian lands from the Moors during the “Reconquista.” According to the website, “” The show was entertainment for the masses.

In a deadly dance of tradition, the matador mesmerizes the bull with his flowing red cape. Every time the bull charges the cape and the matador manages to control the beast, the crowd screams, “Olé!” The crowd cheers over the sounds of the band in the stands playing traditional music signifying a battle.

The sport is broken down into three acts, starting with the already agitated bull’s entrance into the ring upon the sound of a trumpet. The bull runs around the ring angry and out to harm. At this point the bull has most of its strength and is still very dangerous already with a small banderilla (barbed stick) tied with ribbon dug into his body.  In the first act known as trecio de vara (lances third), toreros are the first round of men outfitted with gold and magenta capes to have at the bull, aiming to tire him out.

They are followed by the Picadors, men riding heavily padded equipped with lances. They administer the first attack. The horses have their eyes blocked off so they don’t know exactly what is going on inthe ring. When the bull sees the target larger than the humans, he charges the padded equine. As the bull’s horns are sunk deep into the horse’s padded side, the picador strikes. With his large lance, he aims to sink it deep into the neck muscle of the animal, forcing its blood to gush in a cascade of red.

Attacking the animal’s neck ensures its head will be lower than it would be if unharmed, making it safer for the final challenger the matador. As the bull slowly bleeds out, it weakens and is now ready for the next act.

Trecio de banderillas is the second stage, the “flags third.” The flags are actually decorated sticks with a barbed point. Banderilleros, or flagmen, are the men with these bards decorated with frilly paper, similar to a decorated piñata stick. There are three   banderilleros, each getting an opportunity to stab two banderillas into the bull to tire him out before his ultimate meeting with the matador. The Banderilleros stare down the bull holding the banderillas over their head taunting the bull hoping to outwit and be faster then the enraged animal. The banderillo aims to plunge the barbed sticks into the flesh, in hopes the stick is in deep enough to stay in.

Bandellerillos charge the bull and jump off of the ground extending their bodies to curve around the horns of the bull to sink their flags into the neck of the bleeding animal. After an onslaught of three men and six banderillas the bull meets his ultimate challenger in the gantlet that is the bullring.

The matador is the star of the show with all of his debonair and glory. The bull is now in the final act of the bullfight, trecio de muerta (death third). Three matadors are generally scheduled to kill two bulls each. The matador is the ultimate showman at a bullfight, with red cape and a curved sword. He shows the crowd elegant control of the animal using only a red cape and wooden dowel to hold it straight to draw the animal in.

With the passes of the cape the matador, decorated in an intricate blue suit gilded in gold, and the bull look like they are dancing along the backdrop of the bands music. Each pass getting closer and closer until the bull circles the man. The animal follows the cape frothing at the mouth and panting, what’s left of the banderillas still stuck in him and the blood has begun to coagulate which turns the once crimson liquid into a dark red black fur mass. The bull still has heart and will fight.

The matador taps the cape with his curved sword to get the bull even closer. The matador gets ready to give the “estocada,” or the thrust of the sword between the shoulder blades into the heart. The sign of a good matador is if he could stab the bull hard and accurately enough to minimize the pain and suffering of the bull. With a mighty thrust and flailing of the cape the sword is sunk deep into the animal. The animal bucks and in his dying fury attempting to hit anything in sight. Four torreros come in with magenta and gold capes to corral the beast into its final bow. If the matador successfully landed the deathblow through the heart, the bull would fall and die within moments.

On the edge of death the bull has been beaten, a puntillero appears in the ring with a puntilla, a sharp dagger.  He administers the “coup de grâce,” severing the spinal cord with the dagger fully depleting the bull of life and suffering wiping the blood on the fur before sheathing the dagger.

The third act is when you see the bull die at the hands of a human for sport. Chains are thrown around the bull’s horns and he is dragged out of the ring by a team of three mules. Watching, what was once a strong vibrant creature now lifeless, brings feelings of deep respect for the fierce animal yet acceptance of this cruelty. It is a show of honor showmanship and respect.

As published in the Southwestern College Sun Newspaper.

Twitter- @SWC_Sun

[Editors note: The bullfights had awesome food before the show, including posole, sopes and tacos. The Tecate flows freely and cigar smoke fills the air. The Cerveza is served Preperado]

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