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Bullfighting is still a tremendously popular sport amongst the Spanish today, even though it is always the subject of much debate in regard to animal cruelty in particular.

The low – lying sun floods the arena with heavy summer light from the west. There is a buzz as places fill. Families jostle for space with older, beret-bearing enthusiasts, their faces creased with years of farm toil, and bright young things sporting sky-blue sunglasses. Some clutch plastic cups of beer, others swig red wine from animal-hide botas.

All but those who have
paid for the comfort of real seats in the shade (sombra) have bought some kind of cushion: bare concrete or wooden slats can pull after a while on unprotected behinds.

Many have chosen to huddle on the cheap benches facing the unforgiving
midsummer sun (sol). At one end of the ring, high up in the top rows, a brass band strikes up a stirring paso doble, while on the opposite side the president of the fight and his adjutants await the arrival of the toros (bulls).

The corrida (bullfight) is a spectacle with a long history. It is not, as some suggest, simply a ghoulish alternative to the slaughterhouse (itself no pretty sight). Aficionados say the bull is better off dying at the hands of a matador (killer) than in the matadero (abattoir). The corrida is about many things – death, bravery, performance. No doubt, the fight is bloody and cruel. To witness it is not necessarily to understand it, but might give an insight into some of the thought and tradition behind it. Many Spaniards loathe the bullfight, but there is no doubting its overall popularity. If on a bar – room TV there is football on one channel and a corrida on another, the chances are high that football fever will cede to the fascination of the fiesta.

Contests of strength, skill and bravery between man and beast are no recent phenomenon. The ancient Etruscans liked a good bullfight, and the Romans caught on. Of course things got a little kinky under the Romans half the time there was no fight at all, merely the merciless butchery of Christians and other criminal fodder.

La lidia, as the art of bullfighting is also known, really took off in an organised fashion in Spain in the mid – 18th century. In the 1830s, Pedro Romero, the greatest torero (bullfighter) of the time, was at the age of 77 appointed director of Escuela de Tauromaquia de Sevilla, the country’s first bullfighter’s college. It was around this time too that breeders succeeded in creating the first reliable breeds of toro bravo (fighting bull).

El Matador & La Cuadrilla

Traditionally, young men have aspired to the ring of hope of fame and fortune, much as boxers have done. Most attain neither one nor the other. Only champion matadors make good money and some make a loss. For the matador must rent or buy his outfit and equipment, pay for the right to fight the ball and also pay his cuadrilla (team).

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