Saturday, January 16, 2010

Feria Taurina

Today we witnessed the first "Corrida de Toros," the opener of Colombia's bullfighting season. That's right, Colombia ranks 3rd behind only Spain and Mexico in bullfighting popularity. In ‘03, I managed to catch a bullfight in Madrid that was by far, the most emotional sporting event I've ever been to: women were crying, men were shouting and matadors were showered with flowers and gifts. Outside Medellín’s Estadio Macarena, there were a few hundred "antitaurino" protestors facing off against a police battalion in full riot gear. I can understand the argument against bullfighting and while I'm no fanboy, I do think bullfights present an interesting cultural experience worth seeing at least once.

The protest may have had an impact, as the stadium ended up being only halfway full. In any case, those that did fill the seats started off by embibing mass quantities of aguardiente (anis-flavored liquor), which they drank out of buckskin "Daniel Boone" style water bottles. The first bout featured some incredible horsemanship, with the matador conducting all of the bullfighting on horseback, strafing, dodging and baiting the bull into fast paced pursuits. With the bull literally nipping at the heels of his mount, the matador had to change horses every minute or so because the movements were so strenuous and technical. He charmed the crowd with his daring moves and drew a huge applause whenever he made his horse rear up on two legs and pogo hop into the air.

The other bouts were more traditional and involved the picadors (spear-wielding horsemen), bandilleros (nimbly-toed barbthrowers) and matadors. To my delight, I had an old veteran fan sitting near me, regaling us with all of the proper jeers, cheers and audience participation expected at a bullfight. One thing he would not concede was that some of the bulls had been drugged. My friends and I (who also conferred with others in attendence) noticed that some of the bulls seemed very disoriented and sluggish during the fights, which generally lasted no more than 5 or 10 minutes. This was especially different in Spain, where each bullfight is 30 minutes. In any case, I don’t really agree that bullfighting is a “sport” as much as it is a cultural and historical experience, which means the next (and possibly last) bullfight I go to will be in Mexico.


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