Before I begin I’m not saying bullfighting is a good thing just that it happens!
Sunday was the day of the bullfight and when we went for breakfast the final hectic preparations were in full swing. Mickey saw the bulls arriving early in the morning and in the Plaza red and gold bunting, the colour of the Spanish flag, was being hung from the balconies surrounding the arena. There was a real buzz of expectancy about the place now and it was a real shame that we wouldn’t be there to experience it not the bullfight just the carnival atmosphere).
There were to be seven events and the fights would feature three matadors with their band of attendants, the picador horsemen who lance the bulls and the banderillos who stab them with barbed spikes. All bullfights follow the same pattern and these are the first two acts of a bullfight that are designed to weaken the bull before the final act of the show which always involves a series of intricate moves and daredevil passes by the matador before he makes his final lethal thrust between the bull’s shoulder blades. If the spectators approve of the matador’s performance they wave white handkerchiefs to signal to the President of the fight that he should reward him with a trophy, one or both of the bull’s ears and/or its tail. It is not a very fair fight it has to be said and each one comes to its inevitable conclusion with the death of the bull.
On the first day we had visited the castle on the south side of the Plaza so this morning we visited that part of the town we had left for another day and we walked in a northerly direction towards the elevated position of the cathedral. From here there were good views of the Plaza and the bullring and this is where those without tickets would be jostling for position later in the day. From here also there were uninterrupted views over the Meseta, the massive central plateau of Spain laid out like a patchwork quilt in front of us. It was obvious why they built the town and its castle here because no one was going to sneak up on them, that’s for sure!
We walked back through the Plaza and now the horses had arrived and were being immaculately groomed just outside the entrance to the square. I was surprised at just how small they were but they looked strong and agile and by the time the attendants had brushed their coats to a sheen, plaited their manes and tidied their tales they were beginning to look immaculate.
The horse is the mount of the picador and is a specialised breed that is bred to work with livestock and is similar to the horses favoured in the USA by cattle drovers. The Pura Raza Española is the indigenous Spanish breed of horse and was the favoured mount of medieval knights and later Spanish cavalry regiments but it is forbidden by the National Bullfighting Rules to use them in bullfights. This is because they are too valuable because, although these days horses rarely get badly hurt, the role of the horse is a dangerous one because it has to take the full impact of a five hundred kilo charging bull.
We returned to the hotel to pack and outside there were two white mini-buses full of men checking in at reception. These it turned out were the stars of the show, the matadors and picadors and all of their support entourage. In Spain these men are like Premiership football stars and they are so popular and famous that they even have their own web sites. Fighting today were two dashing young matadors called Alejandro Talavante and Jose María Manzanares and the reception was beginning to fill up with expensive leather travelling cases, sheathed swords and yellow, magenta and crimson capes. One of these men would be staying in our room tonight and I guessed it might be either Alejandro or Jose María because I bet they get allocated a balcony room wherever they go.