Guest Author - Rachel L Webb
Whether or not you like bullfights they have been an historical part of Spanish Culture for centuries. Contests of skill and bravery, men fighting for their principles, war and death is the inheritance of the Spanish people. It’s history since mans occupation has been a bloodbath. Since the Stone Age hunters, diverse people groups have settled and tried to win control over the vast and rugged lands.
Bulls have for centuries roamed the Iberian peninsula and most of Europe. Their strength has been used to tow laden wooden barrels out to ships off the Valencia coast, they been eaten for sustenance and used for religious sacrifice.
Todays bullrings probably come from the Celt-Iberian temples built for their sacrifice.
In Numancia, in the province of Soria there is a preserved temple where bulls are said to have been sacrificed to the Gods.
Todays fighting bull (toro bravo) is a result of breeding from the primitive urus bull. It was the Greeks and Romans that were thought to have converted the sacrifice into a sport for the wealthy to “play” with the bull from horseback.
When this so-called sport died away in the 18th century, the poorer people began to “play” with the bull on foot. This developed into the art of bullfighting we see today, which is also called La Lidia.
In the 1830s Francisco Romero, or Pedro Romero, the greatest bullfighter (torero) of the time was appointed director of the first bullfighting college,
Escuela de Tauromaquia de Sevilla. It was also around this time that they were having reliable success with breeding the toro bravo.
Bullfights usually take place in the spring and summer and generally start after the siesta hour and the gruelling mid-day sun of the south, at 6pm. Which inspired Hemingway’s title “Death in the afternoon."
Tickets sold for the bullfight offer, sol o sombra. Sun or shade. The tickets in the shade being the most sought after and therefore the most costly.
Spanish time runs slightly differently from the English hours, and an afternoon runs until around 8pm which then becomes the evening.
Women were allowed to take on bulls in the 18th century, and the first woman bullfighter (torera) was immortalised by the artist Goya in a sketch of her in action in Zaragoza.
In 1908 women were forbidden to fight bulls with a law saying it was “improper and contrary to civilised manners and all delicate sentiment”. This law was eventually relaxed in 1974 when Angela Hernandez succeeded in it having the law reversed.
Whether you are in agreement or not, this ancient ritual and art form is a part of Spanish Culture which deserves to be experienced.