The anticipation of a bullfight is by far the most intense part. I had, of course, no prior bullfighting experience or knowledge past their fabulous uniforms (traje de luces). The atmosphere was quite similar to that of a baseball game or horse race. The Spaniards are all dressed up, and street vendors sell beer, water, sunflower seeds, hats and seat cushions (red and yellow striped fabric, much more fabulous than the plastic SF Giants ones). The modern corrida de toros (literally “race of bulls”) is highly ritualized with three distinct stages and the beginning of each is marked by the sound of a trumpet. The whole shebang is much more than a fancy man with a red cape versus a gigantic beast.
First, the bull enters the arena to be tired out by the magenta capes of the “banderilleros” (who are kind of like the matador’s assitants). Next, a picador enters the arena on horseback with a lance. The picador stabs just behind the bulls neck to weaken it. In one of the rounds we saw, the horse was knocked over by the bull, which was the hardest part to watch. In the next stage, three banderilleros attempt to plant two sharp barbed sticks into the bull’s shoulders. They remain stuck to the bull for the rest of the show. In the final stage, the matador struts out into the rink alone with his small red cape and a sword. The matador uses the cape to distract, dizzy and tire the bull while impressing the crowd. He then maneuver’s the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart. For the record, this never happened immediately, it took about 5 minutes of post-stab stabs to actually kill each bull.
REPEAT 6 TIMES. 3 matadores, 6 toros. 3 hours. I was happy for my experience watching grey’s anatomy. I was also happy I was seated far away.