Monday, May 28, 2012

La Fiesta Brava

WARNING: The pictures on this post may not be for the squeemish.

So Thursday night I went to the Corrida de Toros, a.k.a., a bullfight. As a young boy I had gone to several bullfights in both bull rings in Tijuana, Mexico because my father and grandfather both loved La Fiesta Brava.

I fully realize that this post can be a center of controversy with animal rights readers and I respect your right to your opinion.

I just have a different opinion is all. There is something about the Dylan Thomasesque fight to the end, and yes, I'm aware that the picadors and banderilleros make for a blood sport. Still, it is a 560+ kg/1,250 lbs. mature, bred to be aggressive fighting machine against an 80 kg/175 lbs. human being.   

La Fiesta Brava 

 It was an easy Metro ride to Las Ventas

Plaza de Toros de Madrid
Las Ventas
First Bull at 7:00 p.m.

Matadors do die in the arena

Tonight's Lineup in the Feria de San Isidro

This Feria is Madrid's biggest lasting two weeks to kickoff the 2012 bullfighting season.

Our headliner tonight was Sebastián Castella, born in Beziers, France 29 years ago. He was confirmed as a full fledged matador in 2004.

Our second rated matador was Daniel Luque a 23 year old Spaniard from Sevilla who was confirmed in 2008.

Finally, we had a 27 year old Mexican bullfighter who was being confirmed tonight. His name is Diego Silvetti.

Each man would fight two bulls tonight.

Old guys waiting for the gates to open 

Everyone was jockeying for a spot in the shade as it was still quite hot in the Sun.

Gates were opened at 6:00 p.m.
and I headed straight to the bar for . . .

A vino tinto

Smoking is not only allowed,
it's encouraged!

Bullfights and cigars go hand-in-hand it appeared as this tobacco shop inside the arena would attest.


One is well worth the 2 Euros as opposed to sitting on that ancient, hard concrete.

A member of the arena's Hall of Fame 

My seat cushion was pretty
darn close to the action

My view of the arena when it first opened

Perfect circle

This man entered the arena about 40 minutes before the action started equipped solely with a standard chalk lining machine. With absolutely no other device he proceeded to lay a huge, perfect circle marking where the matadors should try to draw the bull into action.

It was absolutely a perfect circle!

Just to prove that it was not a fluke . . .

He did it again! Not only was it perfect again, it was perfectly concentric with the first circle.

This second line marks the outer area that the picadors must stay in while doing their necessary work.

Capes ready 

Chicas in the Sunny Side 

It was almost time to start but first we needed some pageantry.

I'm not sure of his function but I like
a good plume as well as the next guy 

"Hola Chicas!"

Picadors on parade

No one in the arena really likes these men nor the very necessary job that they perform.

At the end of the fight these will
haul the carcass to the butcher

Warming Up vs. Air

Our about to be confirmed Mexican matador

The evenings first bull 

The Mexican matador, Diego Silvetti, would take him on with a lot of flair and courage.

A fan of Silvetti's, standing in the white
shirt, was trying to lead cheers 

So let us go through a bullfight, in order, to explain the action.

First up is the beautiful cape work. The main purpose here is to observe the bull's particular quirks and, most importantly, how it uses its horns 

Feet be still

Hard charging but wide of the matador 

Follow the cape not the matador

That is a BIG bull 

Very close!!!

Part two of the fight is when the two picadors come out to do their necessary dirty work. They and their horses are heavily armored and padded. So heavily weighed down, if the picador gets knocked off his horse, he will be in real danger.

The picador uses his lance to puncture the bull's neck muscles causing it to have trouble lifting his head and thus making the kill easier for the matador. Of course, the blood loss will tire the bull as well.

The bull can only be lanced twice during this phase.

This picador drew the crowd's ire because
his lance was too far to the rear of the bull

Ride 'em cowboy!

Blood Sport it is

Phase 3 is the banderilleros with their barbed banderillas. A total of three pairs of these sticks are allowed with the goal again being to weaken the neck muscles and cause a bit more bleeding.

It is all about attitude


Be agile 

Works for me 

Watch it! 

Ready for the final phases of the Corrida

Bull #2 of the day was of interest

It was judged quickly that he was not aggressive enough for the judges' tastes. So something that I had never seen before happened.

Call in the steers!?!?

They led this bull out of the arena alive and brought in one of the two spare bulls that were on hand.

The packed house was
happy with this decision 

Phase four is done with the use of the muleta. The goal now is to really tire the bull as we near the kill.

 Daniel Luque in the pink "Suit of Lights"

Nice work 

Passing by closely

Sabastián Castella in blue


Dangerous semi-blind, behind the back pass 

Diego Silvetti takes center stage

Walking with an attitude

A close pass

Leading the bull


Good footwork 

Toro taking aim

Don't get stepped on

Silvetti bravely turning his back to the bull 

That horn is AWFULLY close!

Silvetti has the bull under control

REALLY under control!!!

The final act is of course the kill, but before we go there, BREAKING NEWS:

Yet another bull was
spared for lack of aggression.

Wow, two in one day. Very strange doings indeed!

Diego Silvetti lining up the bull

He wants the bull's front hooves to be close together thus widening his shoulder blades to make it easier for the sword to penetrate through the heart and/or lungs.

Daniel Luque's turn

And finally, Sebastián Castella 

I thought that the newest matador, Diego Silvetti, showed the most flair and courage but he had troubles with his kills.

Sebastián Castella showed the most polish, especially on his second bull.

Daniel Luque was average at best today.

No awards were earned by any of the matadors today on any of the six bulls. 

Tribute to Dr. Alexander Fleming 

His invention of penicillan has saved the lives of several indebted matadors over the years.

As I left Las Ventas, I noticed a time/temperature sign on the street. It was 9:30 p.m. and still a very toasty 28ºC/82ºF outside. After the easy Metro ride back to Puerta del Sol, I was still thirsty so I headed for one of my favorite watering holes in Madrid located on Plaza Mayor . . .

The Torre del Oro Bar Andalú

The caña was cold and I've always liked their decor for some reason.

A final note, if you are looking for bull fight reults in a Madrid newspaper, they are not in the sports section. You will find the results in the Culture section of the local daily.

Sorry to some of my friends and blog readers, but, personally,  I had an enjoyable evening at Las Ventas.


David said...

Not something I would do, but fascinating, and informative.

A coupe of questions: About how long was the evening's competition? Do the matadors work under any kind of time constraint?

George said...

Each fight takes about 20 minutes.

The judges signal a lone trumpet player to play a few notes to signal for the picadors to enter, then leave and, if needed, for the matador to go for the kill.

The 6 fights took 2 1/2 hours including the entry parade, the time to haul the carcass out, raking the sand between fights and the time it took the steers to get the two non-aggressive bulls back to the bull pen.

Johan said...

Very informative post I must say. I have never known about the different roles of the people involved.

But isn´t a little cheating having others soften the bull up before the matador goes for the kill?

George said...

No, it's a bit like running the ball a lot to set up the BIG play action pass except that in football everybody is usually alive at the end of the game.