Saturday, April 09, 2005

Corridas de toros OR Corridas de tortura??

Started reading this book ...” Men Without Women” by Ernest Hemingway…wait. is not about what the title may suggest at the first look… (.... for I certainly didn’t think the book is about what it is about when I first looked at it!! ..whatever that is supposed to mean!) ..the book is, so says the back cover .. Hemingway’s men who are bullfighters and boxers, hired hands and hard drinkers, gangsters and gunmen…it is about masculine toughness – unsoftened by woman’s hand…hmmm…so I thought… lets see, now that I’ve bought the book – should I go ahead and read it? For as it stands, I am more of a softy….but don’t I want to know about a realm different from my own? Hmmm….most certainly I do – so there is the green flag!! I flipped the first page …

about the author…Ernest Hemingway …was born at a Chicago Suburb – joined Kansas City Star at the age of 18 as a cub reporter-volunteered to work as an ambulance driver at the Italian Front….reported on the Greco-Turkish war – visited Spain during the Civil War ……. (Which is from where he got his passion for bullfighting perhaps...)….hmmm interesting…flip….over to the first story…The Undefeated

I read about nine pages of the story on my way to work yesterday morning …

Manuel Garcia – Don Miguel Retana –the bull “Mariposa” of the Duke of Veragua – which accepted 9 Varas for 7caballos , and caused the death of Antonio Garcia –Zurito - Larita –Cuadrilla – Charlotada-pic-ing!!...

Wait!!! Why is it sounding like Greek to me???!...haa- I know NOTHING of bullfighting except that there is a bull and that there is a man in multicolored attire and skin tight pants (rather funny if I may say!: P) waving a red piece of cloth to the roaring bull!!! …and it probably has something to do with Rodeo ( or mebbe not!) so that’s how my small research on bullfighting began this lazy Saturday afternoon as I listen to this piece of lovely music sent by a friend over n over again….

So: WHAT is it about?

Bullfighting is one of the best-known-although at the same time most controversial-Spanish popular customs. The bull used in the fights is - toro bravo, a species of bull of an ancient race that is only conserved in Spain. Many civilizations revered them; the bull cults on the Greek island of Crete (so now I know why it was sounding like Greek!!!) are supposed to be very well known [a] A contest of some sort is depicted in a wall painting unearthed at Knossos in Crete, dating from about 2000 BC. It shows male and female acrobats confronting a bull, grabbing its horns as it charges, and vaulting over its back[b]. Bullfighting was originally done on horseback and was a sport reserved for the aristocracy .It was Greek and Roman influences that converted the ritual into a spectacle – ultimate aim being to kill the bull…{eeshh…isn’t is sooo cruel??? A spectacle of death???..let’s find more anyways…} .

Showtime : WHAT Happens in a Corrida? [ corrida : a bull fight show]

According to this brief I just read[c] …today the bullfight is much the same as it has been since about 1726, when Francisco Romero of Ronda, Spain, introduced the estoque (the sword) and the muleta (the small, more easily wielded worsted cape used in the last part of the fight …{talk about moving on!} . Anyways…so here’s what I found out about the bloody game {don’t’ gimme those looks for it IS bloody-literally!!}

Step 1: Paseillo -A corrida starts with the paseillo, when everybody involved in the bullfight enters the ring and presents themselves to the president and public .Two alguacilillos on horseback look up to the president's box and symbolically ask for the keys to the puerta de los toriles. Behind that door the bulls are waiting.

Step 2: the first tercio- The bull is let into the ring. The top bullfighter called the Matador waves a bright yellow and magenta cape in front of the bull to make it charge. The matadors are the stars of the show. They wear a distinctive costume, consisting of a silk jacket heavily embroidered in gold, skintight trousers, and a montera (a bicorne hat). A traje de luces (“suit of lights”), as it is known, can cost several thousand pounds.[d] The amount of applause the matador receives is based on his proximity to the horns of the bull, his tranquillity in the face of danger, and his grace in swinging the cape in front of an infuriated animal weighing more than 460 kg (1,000 lb). The color doesn’t really matter for the bull for they are supposed to be color blind The bull instinctively goes for the cloth because it is a large, moving target, not because of its color;

Step 3: Picadores -The second part of the corrida consists of the work of several fighters called the picadors, bearing lances and mounted on horses. The picadors wear flat-brimmed, beige felt hats called castoreños, silver-embroidered jackets, chamois trousers, and steel leg armour. A trumpet is sounded and Picadores weaken the bull by placing spears into it {I am not really liking this…for it IS definitely cruel}.

Step 4: Banderilleros -After three lancings or less, depending on the judgment of the president of the corrida for that day, a trumpet blows, and the banderilleros, working on foot, advance to place their banderillas (brightly adorned, barbed sticks) in the bull's shoulders in order to lower its head for the eventual kill. They wear costumes similar to those of their matadors but their jackets and trousers are embroidered in silver[e].

Step 5: The final suerte suprema- A trumpet sounds. The serge cloth of the muleta is draped over the estoque, and the matador begins what is called the faena, the last act of the bullfight. Says this particular article that – “As with every manoeuvre in the ring, the emphasis is on the ability to increase but control the personal danger, maintaining the balance between suicide and mere survival. In other words, the real contest is not between the matador and an animal; it is the matador's internal struggle” The matador tries to stimulate the excitement of the crowd by working closer and closer to the horns, the fighter takes the sword and lines up the bull for the kill. The kill, aims straight over the bull's horns and plunges the sword between its withers into the aorta region…which says this article “requires discipline, training, and raw courage; for this reason it is known as the “moment of truth”. According to another brief on the subject “ He(the matador) has to show his mastery to dominate the bull, and to establish an artistic symbiosis between man and beast”[f]

Bloody Money Machine?

SO is it really about courage??? We are living in 21st century …and we still celebrate raw and beastly rituals in the name of tradition - Is it courage to kill an animal and make a spectacle out of it or is about dirty money? According to supporters - Rather than a sport, bullfighting is an art form and a cultural event, like a play or an opera. An opera – called what I ask – the dance of death? Where an animal is killed slowly… putting spears and barbed wire into it .. And spectators watch, get charmed and clap??? and THAT we call culture?? The fact is that much as we celebrate the human spirit and all that jazz.…yet many many many people around the world get kicks out of blood sports such as these… And yet many more flock over to these places to watch these killings in the name of ‘raw courage” According to PETA [h] the business pays up to $1 million to each professional matador and pulls in over $1 billion in ticket sales annually….{ now THAT is a HUGE sum man!}.. Not surprisingly, tourism industry is one of the biggest supporters of the so called sport. As per some reports, today as many as 24, 000 bulls are killed every year within Spain in front of an audience of about 30 million people. A study conducted by scientists at Spain’s Salamanca University found that 20 percent of the bulls used for fighting are drugged before they step into the ring. In the sampling of 200 bulls, one in five had been given anti-inflammatory drugs, which mask injuries that could sap the animal’s strength. The bulls aren’t the only victims of the arena. The horses used in bullfights are blindfolded so that they don’t become frightened of the charging bull. They are often gored. The fights can be dangerous and matadors have been killed during bullfights.[i] This PETA brief also mentions “Ernest Hemingway, famous for romanticizing the bullfight ritual…” offence to Mr.Hemingway ….but I am certainly not wee bit excited about this sport…...on the contrary ...even though I am in India..would perhaps join the march against it if I get a chance. According to a report I just came across Barcelona's Town Hall recently declared itself against bullfights. It is the answer to the more than 250,000 letters and signatures that were collected during the "Barcelona, antibullfighting city before the 2004 Forum" campaign, promoted by the Association for the Defence of Animal Rights, ADDA, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals, WSPA[j] …a good step I say..

So now that I know what bullfighting and its intricacies are about (sort of)… and as much I don’t quite like it…what about Men Without Women??... To be or not to be?…what will happen to Manuel Gracia? Should I go ahead and find out where his life takes him …hmmmmm….or should I drop him? And the other Men Without Women that dear Mr.Hemingway talks about?...have been thinking about it…and I guess I’d read through the book…for even if I don’t agree with gunmen – bullfighting – or whatever – I would like to know what is their world like…a world different from my own…I’d like to know their struggles – their lives – their highs and their lows…..for I would like to know of light as well as of dark to understand what this world is all about… for it takes both fire and ice to make this world doesn’t it?


[a]The art and the History of Bullfighting in Spain

[b], [c] , [d] , [e]


[g]ABC -Anti Bullfighting Campaign



[j] ABC (Anti Bullfighting Campaign)