A few weekends ago for San Isidro I went to a bull fight, perhaps the last thing I thought I would ever do here in Spain. I was hesitant for obvious reasons I think, killing for entertainment is not high on my list of tolerance but then I got a really nice invitation and the little voice in my head kept saying “keep an open mind, Eli”. I said yes, grabbed my nice camera and met Miguel to head over to Las Ventas. Right in the heart of Madrid, this recently remodeled amphitheater hosts concerts, events and of course bull fights. Today it was dressed to the nines, Spanish flags everywhere and traditional music playing. I was under the impression that a bull fight would be very man v. animal, a 1:1 dual to the death but was shocked to learn that there are multiple matadors who help tire out the animal before the main man takes over and leads the bull through the famous passes. Then there’s another bull, and another – there were 6 “fights” in one afternoon. We had sangria and bought cushions (in referencing Las Ventas to almost every spanish person they all mentioned these cushions, I think they might be as old as the stadium itself!). When a matador does an outstanding job, marked by how close he can get to the bull or how difficult the passes are that he achieves (behind the back or one handed) the crowd goes wild and waves white flags to demand that he get to cut off the bulls ear and take it home as a trophy. Our host eagerly explained the ritualistic nature of the fight whenever I had questions. I can’t decide if that maybe helped justify the brutality a little for me. Then we ate ham sandwiches; it was impossible for me not to feel honorarily spanish with the overwhelming tradition of it all.
If I can sum up my feelings about the fight in one word it would be intense. Its really an emotionally draining exercise to watch two creatures fighting each other with everything they’ve got knowing one of them wont make it to the end alive (usually the bull). I used to work on a farm in college in Portland where I had the chance to see an organic pig get killed, dressed and then returned to us as bacon. This after toying with vegetarianism and then realizing how hard it was for me to live without cured meat. In moderation. obvs. When I think about the state of meat production in the USA I can’t say that bull fighting is any less humane. The bulls are immediately broken down and sent to market where they sell at for top price for consumption. The only real difference here is the entertainment part, its not normal to watch something die with a drink in your hand and people cheering all around you. I tried to be as appreciative as possible to our host, and after having been sincerely doubt I will do it again, adding yet another thing to the list of impossible-to-simplify cultural experiences.