Bullfight experience in Granada

Mesmerizing and saddening display of man and beast

Written September 2015; traveled June 26, 2011


For all the obvious reasons, we had agreed ahead of time that we were not interested and did not want to see a bullfight during our driving tour of Spain in 2011. 


But after visiting the historic Plaza de Toros de la Maestranze bullring in Seville, built between 1761-1881, we were captivated. We booked a fight in Granada two days hence, paying $49 Euros each for a  “sol y sombra” (sun into shade) section. 


The experience on June 26, 2011, in Granada was fascinating, and saddening. The program was typical: three matadors each fighting two bulls.


The beasts, upon release into the ring, were big and strong and fast, charging fiercely after center court, sending your andrenalin soaring. (Only one bull required enticement to come out for the show.)


First, the matadors and assistants play with the "toros', teasing the excited bulls, gauging their capabilities. The matadors prance deliberately, each calculated swirl intended for show and drawing appreciative applause. This was the man vs. beast authentic moments.


Next come the picadores on horseback to stab the beasts behind the neck and begin wearing them down.


The banderilleros then run around the bulls, jumping styliistically to thrust barbed sticks into their shoulders. The wounded bulls slow, stumble, pant, bleed.


Now the matador returns with cape and sword, getting closer to the exhausted bull, staring deep into their eyes or non-chalantly walking away. The goal is a death blow by sword into the brain, severing the spinal cord, or into the exact spot that pierces the heart. None succeeded on the first try during our fights.


But in the end, all six bulls were killed and dragged out by a team of mules. 


One matador was flipped but got up unharmed. One horse was pushed down by the bull and required much attention and assistance to help it up and out of the ring. 


There was a youthful live band playing on occasion. Once, they started the “death” anthem only to have the matador wave them off: Not yet, he was saying!


The crowd is very engaged and signals its pleasure in the performance by waving hankies. When the three-panel judging team raises a white hanky it means the matador has earned the prized gift of an ear from their bull. 


Three ears were handed out to two Matadors with the last and youngest earning two. 


In many ways, the atmosphere was like an American baseball game. The audience was nearly all locals, with families picnicking in the cosy bleachers with jugs of wine, sandwiches and desserts. We had decided to leave after five fights, knowing there were six. But our neighbors were insistent, explaining in Spanish and gesturing in no uncertain terms that we had to stay till the end. So we did, which allowed us to see the last matador get carried out on the shoulders of the crowd as a conquering hero. 


We would not go see another, but it was educational to have experienced one.


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© 2015 by Mei-Mei Chan Kirk