27 December 2010


We went to the plaza de toros to see 7 bulls to be killed by 3 matadors and one matador on horseback. I was with Hector the Peruvian, an English guy, a Dutch and an American, all of us staying at the hostel. For everyone but the Peruvian it was to be their first bullfight and I explained to them the three acts of the corrida as simply as I could and did my best to sway them from rooting to see a matador gored, as it is often the case that those who know nothing of the corrida will hope to see a man die or be badly injured.

The corrida began with a Peruvian torero on horseback placing the darts called banderillas into the neck muscle of the bull. He would place two banderillas and then change horses and place another set of increasingly smaller, colorful darts. The bull would circle and chase the horse around the plaza, and the torero would lean back in the saddle reaching out and tempting the bull. It was a very fine display of horsemanship and the bull very narrowly got the horse a number of times.

First act cape work 

Banderillero, second act

After placing 3 sets of banderillas he changed to an elegant white horse, and carrying a long sword he rode at the bull and leaning out of his saddle over the bull, thrust the sword into the bull cleanly and easily. He had missed the heart and got the lungs and the bull stopped chasing the horse as blood dumped out of his mouth. It was shocking to the guys to see the blood and the torero dismounted and waved the bull to the ground. The first bull was dead.

Faena of Jose M Manzanares

Pase natural

Pase de pecho

Of the bullfights I have seen this was on the whole the cleanest and best executed. There was none of the matadors failing multiple times at killing the bull and jabbing their swords at bulls they feared getting too close to; or the members of their cuadrilla running up behind and trying to poke the short knife called the puntilla into the base of the bull's skull to sever its spinal column and assassinate it. Bullfights often deteriorate into a brutal and bloody spectacle if the bulls are not of a good, pure charging quality and the matadors are too frightened to take the risks necessary to fight them.

Faena of Luis Bolivar with the bull 'Sabio' 

Pase natural

Pase natural
But these bulls were mostly good, and the first bull taken by the matador Luis Bolivar, the bull called 'Sabio', was excellent, pure, hard-charging and Bolivar did not waste it and he performed a very moving faena (the working of the bull in the third act before the kill, making passes with the red muleta). The bullfight papers the next day said the remaining matadors of the fights over the next 4 days would be hard pressed to best the faena Bolivar performed. He wound the bull around him, his feet still, his body erect, winding the bull closer and tighter to his body, leading and controlling him with the muleta, and the crowd was quiet and the guys all recognized they were seeing something done very well and when Bolivar passed the bull from his knees with a pase de rodillas the crowd erupted.

Luis Bolivar, pase de rodillas

It was a moving faena and when Bolivar killed the bull cleanly but not perfectly with the estoque and the bull dropped the crowd cheered madly, throwing hats and wineskin botas and flowers as Bolivar circled the bullring in triumph. He was awarded 2 ears by the president and Sabio the bull was dragged twice around the ring to great cheering. He was a fine bull and the crowd acknowledged it. Bolivar had not wasted him.

First act, with the picadores

Bolivar's second bull was not of the same quality but he performed admirably and when the corrida ended Bolivar was paraded around the plaza on the shoulders of his cuadrilla to the cheering of the crowd. It was a good bullfight and we had been lucky to see one of such quality. What Bolivar had done with his first bull was as close to what a bullfight should be as someone who does not frequent the corrida is likely to see.


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