The Bull Fight Part II


Now that we've gotten that little disclaimer out of the way, we can show you what a real professional bullfight looks like. Watching one is a very unique experience, for many reasons. We'll delve into the why so in a minute, but first, let's discuss a brief history of the tauromachia.

Bullfighting dates back to ancient Rome, when Roman soldiers engaged in various man vs. beast contests, both as a machismo rite of passage and entertainment on remote empire posts. Over the centuries, the sport spread across Europe and due to expansion of the Spanish empire, eventually much of Central and South America.

Today, in this modern age of animal rights and political correctness, few countries still permit bullfights. Even in Spain, where bullfighting is deeply engrained in the national culture, it is controversial. The Spanish royal family is divided on the issue... while Queen Sophia is known for her public dislike of bullfighting, King Juan Carlos regularly presides over his countries' national pastime.

There was no royality present at our bullfight. The stands were mostly empty in fact, and the atmosphere had a blue collar feel. Before the fight, when the bull was released into the ring, the matador appeared pensive, as if he recognized that minus the pageantry, the event came down to him vs. the bull, and only one would walk out of the ring.

Bullfights have three acts, known as tercios. First is the tercio de varas, where the matador confronts the bull and engages in a series of passes to impress the crowd and gauge the bull's ferocity. This stage includes the lancing of the bull by a picador on horseback, a move intended to weaken the bull by severing powerful neck muscles. Obviously, the bull doesn't approve and attempts to gore the horse. In days of old, before horses were protected with padded armor, they were often disemboweled and stepped about on their own guts before collapsing in front of shocked audiences. Thankfully, this did not happen during our bullfight.

Next up is the tercio de banderillas, the stage where two bandrillas (barbed sticks) are planted into the bull's back in an attempt to anger and invigorate after the lancing.

For the final stage, the tercio de muerte, the matador engages the bull with a crimson cape for the series of passes known as the faena. The goal is to not only fatigue the bull, but impress the crowd with how close he can get to the bull during the tandas, or the passes.

When the matador feels the faena is complete, he readies his sword for the estocada, or the thrusting of the sword into the bull's back.

With a deft move that took less than a second, the blade is inserted into the bull and driven into the heart. The bull stumbles and snorts blood for a moment, then falls to the ground.

As the bull writhed on the dirt floor, we were struck by the complexity of the moment; the brutality mixed with pageantry. Here's a man wearing ballet slippers and an outfit with more sequins than a Liberace Vegas costume facing a 1,000 pound horned beast. And how this animal died under much more nobel circumstances than the bovines who get a piston to the head in Iowa slaughter houses.

The sword is withdrawn and the bull takes his final gasp of life.

The matador is given a hero's ceremony.

After cowboys roped the back legs of the bull's lifeless carcass and pulled it off the arena floor, a bloody stain and drag mark is all that remained.


The Bull Fight: Part I

We're getting to the bullfight.... but just like how it went down at the Plaza De Toros, first up are the many dances, parades, and contests- all part of the pageantry that take place before the official la fiesta de toros.

For almost two hours, horsemen and dancers engaged in spectacular displays of cultural showmanship, like this Mexican square dance on the dusty arena floor.

Sash wearing chareos dance their crazy sword dance.

Horseriders display the flags of the tourist countries.

A mariachi band warms up the crowd.

Tourista damas play a game of catch the greased piglets.

And the tourista hombres play an invigorating game of man vs. little bull soccer.
Which didn't go so well for this guy.

Or this guy.

And the pre-bullfight activities concluded with the grandest of animal contests; the rooster fight.

Up next: the moment you've all been waiting for, the tauromachia.


Playa Del Carmen Part II- Akumal

Yal Ku, a lagoon full of reef fish and barricudas and perfect for snorkeling located near Akumal. One of the gems of the trip was finding this quiet resort village.

The Akumal PD.

Delicious shrimp-filled releno at La Lunitas beachfront bistro.

The Akumal fishing fleet.

Our fishing guide, The Skipper.

His trusted assistant Jose, aka Gilligan.

Our day's catch.

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