Essay, Research Paper: Bullfighting


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Bullfighting is a tradition, art and athletic sport combined in one.
Bullfighting originated in the classical world. The first bullfights supposedly
took place in Knossos, Greece, “a contest of some sort is depicted in a wall
painting unearthed… dating from about 2000 BC. It shows male and female
acrobats confronting a bull, grabbing its horns as it charges, and vaulting over
its back.” (Encarta) Bullfights stayed popular after the Greek era had
declined, in Rome. The spectacle of bullfighting during this time period was
scarcely an art form but pure sport. It was not until the Moors of North Africa
conquered the Visigoths of Europe in 711 AD that bullfighting started to evolve
into an art. The Moors would ride skilled horses on feast days on which they
killed the bulls. During this time period, when the Moors were redefining
bullfighting, there were those bullfighters that rode horses and killed the
bulls but there were also those men who stood on the ground with capes. The men
that wielded the capes aided the horsemen in how the bull was positioned during
the fight. These men began to draw most of the attention from the crowd due to
their expertise and craftsmanship with their capes; these men eventually became
the matadors of 2 today. With this development, a corrida de toros (“the
running of the bulls”) began to take the shape in which it is seen today as
modern bullfighting. In 1726 Francisco Romero of Ronda, Spain fit the last piece
into the bullfighting puzzle when he introduced the estoque (the sword) and the:
“The muleta [bullfighting cape]… a Spanish cloak, and you can even see it
being worn at times, if rain falls, by fighters off duty… It is nowadays made
of two thicknesses of heavy silk, the outside being blotting-paper pink and the
inside generally yellow. It is very strong.” (Machnad 58) The modern sport of
bullfighting is strictly an art form, having evolved from its origin in ancient
Greece and firmly taken its roots mostly in Spanish speaking countries. Bulls
used for bullfighting are a special breed of animal and their lives and breeding
reflect that fact: “This Spanish fighting bull is a long way removed from the
Hereford or the Jersey, or even the Texas longhorn. You can let cattle run loose
on the open range for generations until they are complete ‘outlaws’, but
they will never turn into what the 3 Spanish call toros bravos or fighting
bulls. The reason is that the race is different.” (Machnad 5) There are two
races of cattle native to Spain, one domestic and the other wild. The domestic
animals came over by land from Asia and were already domesticated by the Celts.
The other race came by sea from Northern Africa and was being thoroughbred in
ancient Egypt at that time. These latter animals were only barely domesticated
and began to roam the Spanish mountainsides wild. This fighting bull is called
Bos Taurus Africanus. This bull is a descendant of Bos Primigenius or the
Primordial Bull. Some of these Primordial Bulls survived in herds in the German
forests and were hunted by men such as Julius Caesar who said, “In size they
are a little less than elephants; in species, colour and shape, they are
bulls.” (Machnad 5) Most bulls that enter the ring with the bullfighter are at
least four years old, one year older than those bulls in the slaughterhouse. In
the eyes of the spectator, the last twenty minutes of the bull’s life are what
matters. The fighting bull lives the life of peace in nature until it is time
for the fight, having the best pastures and rations of food than that of its
cousins, the domesticated cow. Calves are born in the winter and suckled by the
mother until just after the second summer of the calf’s life. At this point
the calf is separated from the mother and branded shortly thereafter. When the
calves reach a certain age they are put through a rigorous bravery test. This
test, called a tienta, consists of most 4 everything in an actual bullfight
minus the banderillos and the kill. Experts determine which calves will become
fighting bulls by grading “the animal’s attitude, style, speed, smoothness,
nervousness or calmness, nobility and mode of going for the cloth lures,” (Machnad
41) After the bull has matured he is put into a traveling box and taken to his
final destination. The unboxing of the bulls is a very tense moment for all
involved because the bulls may be ill tempered and be feverish with swollen
feet. After this, the bulls rest and are prepared for the fight. In the
bullfight itself, the matador has many different moves in his arsenal along with
weapons that he uses to survive and to dispatch the bull. One of the basic
passes that the matador uses is called the veronica, which is the basic pass
with the cape. This move as with all the passes takes an immense amount of
practice. Another pass is the pass of death, which is a swing of the cape when
the cape is held out and spread wide by the estoque. A derechazo is a pass where
the matador attempts to regulate and direct the charge of the bull. This
particular pass deals with the distances between the animal and the bullfighter,
requiring a lot of skill for knowing the temperament of the animal. The matador
will walk steadily into the path of the bull shaking the cape the entire time
until the bull passes under the cape of the moving matador. This pass requires
nerve, skill, and timing. The Pase Por Alto is a pass in which the Spanish
phrase ‘Parar, templar, y mandar’ has originated, coined by Pedro Romero.
This phrase means planting the feet, slowing 5 down and smoothing out the
bull’s charge, and dominating the bull and controlling it’s path,
respectively. These are some of the basic passes of bullfighting. An experienced
matador would also add more complex, artistic and beautiful passes such as the
manoletina, the arrucina, and the afarolado. “The most dramatic of the cape
passes is the larga cambiada. The man kneels, swirls the cape out on the sand in
front of him, and holds onto the corner with one hand. When the bull charges,
the matador waits until the animal is about six feet away, then flips the cape
over his head. As it flares out, it changes the bull’s direction so that
instead of passing on the man’s right side, it goes by on the left. It can be
highly exciting, beautiful, and dangerous. The problem is knowing the exact
moment to swing the cape.” (Conrad, Barnaby 52) As in many sports each
bullfighter has his or her own superstitions about thing pertaining to and
things not pertaining to the sport which in the end affect the outcome of the
bullfight. The obvious immortal of bullfighting is Pedro Romero who is said to
have perfected the art of bullfighting. Chronologically speaking, Francisco
Romero would have to come first. Francisco Romero was a 6 great bullfighter in
his own right but he is best known and remembered for inventing the estoque and
the muleta and being the grandfather of Pedro Romero. Pedro Romero is the
unchallenged ruler of all that is and was modern bullfighting: Pedro Romero is
the Homer of bullfighting: first in time and still unchallenged in supremacy.
Grave, hieratic, with the air of a judge and the face of an aristocrat as Goya
depicts him, he made it into a science and an art, and laid down the classical,
imperishable norms of how to dominate a wild bull with a piece of cloth. No one
has ever departed from those norms except to his own physical cost and to the
detriment of the art.” (Machnad 107) Beginning in 1771 and continuing until
his retirement in 1799, Pedro dispatched about 200 bulls per season. He did this
using the receiving method, which is nearly obsolete today due to its difficulty
and danger to the matador. However, Romero was a master also of the attacking
method newly invented at the time by Costillares. Pedro Romero was coaxed into
the ring one last time at the age of eighty. He, without the facilities of a
younger man, dispatched and killed all of the bulls that fell to him. Pedro died
at the age of eighty-four and when it came time to bury him; there was not a
single scar to be found on his body. Then there were others like El Chiclanero
who was a braggart that loved the firewater and the 7 ladies. Uneducated except
in the ways of the bullfight he was loud and quarrelsome and fit the stereotype
of the bullfighter of his time period to a tee. He came from a small town named
Chiclana, which was also the hometown of Francisco Montes, the foremost disciple
of Pedro Romero. His actual name was Jose Redondo and he was the best of his
time. There have also been many other greats such as: Rodolfo Gaona, Armillita (Fermín
Espinosa, 1911-80), and Arruza, of Mexico; and Belmonte, Manolete, and Antonio
Ordoñez, of Spain. All of this is the art of bullfighting. Bullfighting has
evolved from a raw adrenaline sport ancient Greece to a worldwide art form in
modern times. There are many techniques and many traditions. The clothing and
the weapons along with the respect for the animals and the courage and grace of
the bullfighters.BibliographyAll about Spain. Corrida de Torros. 17 April 2000.
“Bullfighting.” Encarta Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 1996.
Conrad, Barnaby. How to Fight a Bull. New york: Doubleday, 1968. Conrad,
Stanley. Bullfighting Reference Material. 17 April 2000.
Hemingway, Ernest. Death in the Afternoon. New York: Scribner, 1960. Hemingway,
Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York: Scribner, 1954. Machnad, Angus. Fighting
Bulls. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1959. Michener, James A. My Lost Mexico: The
Making of a Novel. Austin: State House Press, 1992.
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