Tuesday, July 5, 2011

'A Wonderful Nightmare' in Sevilla

A few weekends ago in Sevilla, we were getting a taste of the southern Spanish culture before heading back to the States. The city's bullring just so happened to be across the street from our hotel and when in Sevilla...

I've seen a corrida once before, in Pamplona, while hiking the Camino de Santiago:

 From this dusty road, we wandered into this frenzied party. Someone passed me a calimocho (vino con cola), put their arm around my neck and then, I was swaying back and forth, along with the entire stadium of people, faking the lyrics to a traditional song.

The thrilling, beautiful world of colors, culture, history and passion, swept me away. I remember being awe-struck by the purity of the man versus beast theatre happneing below and captivated by the warm embrace of my fellow fans:

Six years later, in Sevilla, it was an entirely different scene - no shade in the sweltering Sunday heat, no padding on the concrete benches, no singing, no drinking and well, a few more years of contemplation on the tradition. 

I think Ernest Hemmingway summed it up best when he described the spectale as "a wonderful nightmare."

I am still drawn to the simplicity of the setting - an architecturally beautiful ring full of people all waiting to see a spectacle of man versus beast. 

And then the angry bull, suddenly, comes charging into the ring:

The ritual begins with several torreros, who taunt the bull with their bright pink capes in an attempt to tire him out: 

Things then turn gruesome. A horseman with a large spear comes parading out on a blindfolded horse and stabs the bull repeatedly. It is cruel. Seeing this for the first time (sober), Ted and I almost left.

Once the horseman has done his business, another man appears, holding two short spears, which he sticks directly into the bull's neck with one swift, precisly timed movement.

The bull, now visibly bleeding, is in the center of the ring. The matador, in a sparkly outfit, approaches, ready to perform the final act. 

He completely controls the tired bull, twirling it in circles with his flashy cape. There is indeed something beautiful in the moving shapes and shadows as they go about their macabre dance. After several minutes of show, a sword appears in the matador's hands, and with one motion, he drives it into the bulls heart.

Hopefully now, the torture is done, and the bull drops dead to the ground. If the crowd thinks the matador did a good job (whatever that means), they will wave a white flag called an 'oreja', an ear to show their approval. 

The crowd goes wild and quickly, a team of horses sweeps the dead animal away with men brushing up the dripping blood:

I don't ever need to see another bullfight, but they were experiences I will never forget. 


  1. me bebe'

    you have a wonderful way of writing. It is giving me something to ponder about scapegoating. Do you think that killing innocent animals has some cultural/religious significance?

    Do the Spanish people release their human aggression with this ancient spectacle making them less violent?

    I can't wait to discuss this with you.


  2. Hi baby

    I just posted a blog on scapegoating -


    whatcha think?

  3. This is a terrific description of a very macabre event. and your photos are wonderful!


  4. In the transition to democracy (late 70s) dead penalty ("garrote vil") was stopped, and last year a new law stopped Toros in Catalonia, I am happy for that. Similar to Toros, many fascists assisted to see how people with democratic ideals were killed, like a wonderful nightmare...traditions are not always fair.