Tuesday, July 1, 2008


A dream that we weren't able to fulfill during our last trip to Spain because of bad weather was realized last Sunday when we attended a bullfight here in Madrid.

This is the bull ring, "Las Ventas". It's considered one of the most beautiful rings in Spain. The style is mudejar, a Moorish form of architecture.

The posters on the outside of the building advertised who the bullfighters would be, and which bulls were being fought.

We reserved tickets early, and picked them up at the ring. Here's Alex taking them out of the automatic machine.

A monument to a fallen bullfighter outside the ring.

Andrew standing in front of the entrance to Las Ventas. The tiles at the top read "Plaza De Toros" - Plaza of bulls.

Another monument to Antonio Bienvenida, a legendary bullfighter.

The attractive interior of the building, walking up to our seats.

Ehi! Here it is - the circular arena.

We got there quite early - early enough to watch the grounds crew painting the white circles on the sand that allow the bullfighter to judge distance.

At last the corrida began. The bullfighters, their companions the piccadores and the banderilleros marched in to live music from a band in the stands.

Before the bull entered, his weight, name, and pedigree were displayed on a sign held by a man in the center of the ring. The 533 is how much the bull weighed - in KILOS.

The bullfighters got in some practice before the bull entered.

And here he is. More than 1100 lbs of torro.

The battle begins.

Another shot of the bull charging the cape.

After the bull has charged at the cape several times, the piccadores enter. They are mounted on horses protected with quilted metal armor, and armed with lances. When the bull charges the horse, the piccadores ram the lances into the bull's spinal cord and neck/shoulder muscles, weakening it.

This bull was quite strong. That horse was no pony, but he very nearly lost his footing after the bull plowed into him several times.

The horses leave the ring and men with barbs, banderillas enter. They run at the bull and thrust the two banderillas into his back or neck. As you can see from this picture, it's pretty risky business.

At last the Matador is ready for the kill. He receives a sword and good luck hug from a confrère and enters the ring.

The weakened bull now faces the matador, who makes several passes with the cape.

Meanwhile the rest of the bullfighters look on.

The passes with the cape are now finished. The bullfighter poses with his sword, ready to meet the bull's charge.

The bullfighter stands his ground and doesn't move. It is up to the 2 feet of 440 stainless to stop the 1100 pounds of bull. And stop him it does. You can see in this picture the matador ramming the sword into the bull.

A good clean kill, and within seconds the bull is down, dead. He is quickly dragged off the ring by skittish mules, kept moving with a cracking whip behind them. He'll be sold for meat later on. The grounds crew is busy preparing the arena for the next bull.

Typically each afternoon at the bullring consists of six fights. Six bulls with three matadors, who each fight two bulls. We watched all six fights. The bulls become heavier, older, and wiser as the fights go on, and sometimes the bull wins. The last fight was with a bull that weighed 1300 pounds, and was no quitter. Even after being weakened by the piccadorres and banderilleros he was still enraged and quite capable of fighting. And fight he did. The bullfighter was just a tad slow and a horn in the leg. He was quickly carried off by his colleagues as the crowd got to its feet in surprise. I have to say, we were all stunned. It happened so fast, no one had time to react, so I didn't get a picture. The bull charged and just like that, the bullfighter was in the air. Look at the bull at the bottom of the picture, looking on.

Another bullfighter took over but the original bullfighter shook off his pain and returned to the ring.

As another bullfighter bound his leg with his neckerchief to stop the bleeding, the crowd gave both him and the bull a standing ovation.

Look at the bullfighter's right leg, covered in blood. Unfortunately he wasn't strong enough to continue, and had to leave, but at least he tried. The bull was dispatched by another fighter, and afterwards his ears were cut off as trophies. Truly an outstanding bull!

These two people were very kind to us. They are bullfight regulars and shared a wealth of information with us. We truly enjoyed sitting next to them.


Denise said...

Wow, what an incredible play-by-play, and the arena is stunning. The scope and depth of the bullfighting sport was marvelously conveyed by the photos and narrative. So glad you've made this trip to Spain!

julius victoriaaaa said...

hey!!its 2 oclock in the morning,manuel and i were watching your photos down here in your blog and were are hearing andreww crying because anthony is punishing him...tomorrow youre going to zaragozaa so enjoy it and see you at mid-night.take care in your trip and have fun and we will se us again...amor de rey!!incontinencia sumaa!twisted!nice time we had here huh?wooow i nerarly forget to tell andrew that stop crying causee im going to shut down this computer and i want to slip sho shut the F...off!

Raymond said...

I just finished reading The Sun Also Rises and immediately began searching the internet for visuals on bull fighting. It is not a thing I have experienced or have read about before. Your page not only added the mental imagery I was searching for but gave me an additional appreciation for the arena and sense of history and culture of the experience. Thanks to you for sharing.