Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ferdinand the Bull Redux

I saw my first bullfight this weekend; in fact, I watched several. I didn't actually attend a corrida - as if that mitigates my viewing of it - but rather watched a series of bulls and matadors bull-killers fight to the death on television. I admit that I had to change the channel when the picadores and the banderilleros were due to divest themselves of their weaponry into the back & neck of the bulls - as if that mitigates my viewing of it - but I did witness the estocada or coup de grâce of all 3 animals. So to be accurate, I saw parts of my first bullfight this weekend; in fact, I watched the parts of several.

Not surprisingly, t
he bull-killers all won. In the past 307 years, only 52 bull-killers have lost to their opponent, Now, I don't know this for a scientific fact - I do have a mathematical pea brain after all - but I suspect that many many more bulls have died. The odds are not exactly in their favour.

In truth, I hadn't intended to watch any of the fights but
Señor Gato Gringo and I were living the high life in a hotel room in Segovia with a real live television set (we still don't own one) and were channel surfing. I could say that our choice was either the bullring or the Castillian version of 'Star Search' (sans Ed McMahon but with an equally unctuous hostess) but that would be a patently obvious lie. We could have turned the television off altogether but somehow those three corridas became three train wrecks that we had to see to the bitter end. And consequently pay for with unsettled sleep and vivid nightmares.

It's been said that it's relatively easier to watch a corrida on television because you don't hear much of the ringside action - like the groaning of a dying animal for instance - and are somewhat distanced by the event by the chatter and banter of the colour commentators. Viewers are desensitized. Having said that, it wasn't easy. Not even relatively. Nor did slow-motion replays in any way deaden my sensibilities.

Of the three bulls, one was fortunate. And by fortunate, I mean relatively fortunate. It died quickly. The death blow, as it were, felled the 500 kilo bull in seconds. But usually the sword doesn't kill the bull and the bull-killer and his peones partners in crime have to circle the animal and play chicken with it using their capes. As the bull dekes and charges, the sword cuts up his insides. But this was a relatively clean kill.

most fortunate bull-killer was awarded both ears.

Of the three bulls, one was most unfortunate. The bull-killer's aim was not sure, and the tip of his sword barely pierced the animal's back and it (the sword) wobbled and then fell to the ground. At this point, the bull-killer should administer a descabello, i.e., the cutting of the bull's spinal cord to effect a quick and relatively painless death.
If the bull is still reluctant to die, a partner in crime is called in to do more damage to the spinal cord - this time with a dagger. Not so here: our brave bull-killer elected to drive the sword into the bull 2 more times but again, he could not find the 'sweet spot' between the shoulder blades that theoretically will allow for a relatively instantaneous death. As his partners in crime circled the bull, the bull-killer jabbed away at the animal's head. It took minutes to weaken the bull to death, a death by attrition.

most unfortunate bull-killer was whistled from the ring.

I don't know why I watched. More to the point, I don't know how I watched, but for some ineffable reason, I felt it was important. I am pleased to say that I still don't understand its appeal, more than ever I am repulsed by its barbarity and I am happy to remain a cultural infidel. Yes, I'm glad that I watched. And I will never do it again.

Segovia with its 2000 year old Roman aqueduct is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Until recently - ignorant little gatita that I am - I thought that the UNESCO Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval essentially meant that a city/monument would receive financial assistance in self-preservation while enjoying a through-the-roof boost in tourism. Apparently it can be applied to an event.

Recently Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa led a host of celebrities in a campaign to gain Unesco World Heritage status for bullfighting. Their belief was that a nod from UNESCO would protect 'the sport' from pesky peaceniks and do-gooders who want bullfighting banned, as well as injecting into it some much-needed revenue as attendance is down in Spain. Indeed, why not put the ritualized and public torture and execution of animals on par with the Alhambra palace in Granada or anything & everything that Gaudi lent a hand to?!! This is genius. And this is why Llosa is one of Latin America's leading novelists and essayists and I'm just a lowly unpaid blogger.

"To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria". These include, but are not limited to, the proposed site's ability to represent "a masterpiece of human creative genius". Hmmmm, one bull with filed-down horns vs. several men with lethally sharp steel weapons. That is creative!

Not too Remarkably, Llosa and his cronies failed in their bid: UNESCO denied their request. Go figure. Perhaps with 40 UNESCO designations already notched in Spain's bedpost, those peaceniks and do-gooders at the UN felt that 41 was overkill. Or perhaps the judges just preferred sitting quietly under a cork tree, smelling the flowers too. I'm sure that the Ferdinands of the world were pleased.

Addendum: if you're absolutely clueless what a corrida is all about, go here for an all too graphic viewing.


Anonymous said...

A sick spectacle.

knarf said...

I don't know if I can ever watch Bully for Bugs again.


La Gatita Gringa said...

The Bull in Bully for Bugs at least had a rifle. For a short time that evened the playing field.

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