The bullfighting ("corrida de toros" in Spanish) is considered to be one of the most famous national sport and spectacle of Spain. Why is it so popular in spite of all the protests of communities that struggle for animal's rights and why it is gaining, not losing popularity? Let's trys to find out the truth and start with the roots.
The bullfighting has a very ancient and rich history: in the Mediterranean, sacrificing bulls is a practice dating back to pre-historic times. In Greece killing the minotaur is symbolic of a bullfight. The Bible reports on sacrifices of bulls in honour to the divine justice. Also in the religious ceremonies of Iberian tribes living in Spain in prehistorical times bulls played an important part. In the 18th century, the Spanish introduced the practice of fighting on foot, Francisco Romero generally being regarded as having been the first to do this, about 1726. The modern style of Spanish bullfighting is credited to Juan Belmonte, generally considered the greatest matador of all times, who introduced a daring and revolutionary style which kept him almost constantly within a few inches of the bull. Although extremely dangerous (Belmonte himself was gored on many occasions), his style is still seen by most matadors as the ideal to be emulated.
Even nowadays, bullfighting is a ritual. It is a ceremony that is carried out in carefully pre-arranged steps, as called for by the tradition of the corrida, each stage with its own name, and which the aficionados in the crowd will know by heart. The leading roles are played by the bull and the matador in the arena. It is a ritual that requires a sacrifice, a sacrifice to the death.
Only this thought can justify the ritual, the performance, the bullfight, the celebration, and that is death. Man, in his complex relationship with the fear of death but also his willingness to risk it, seeks to vanquish death. He does that by physically overcoming death; and doing so in the arena, he seeks immortality. The bull, therefore, is death personified. The ritual has been carried out, when the bull is dead and the matador is triumphant. It means, that a man has defeated death - today he is immortal.
If you are not familiar to Corridas, you will find here listed chronologically everything that happens. So you may decide by yourself if you want to see one when you are visiting Spain and some Latin American countries (Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador) or not.
A "classical" Corrida starts with the paseillo, with everybody involved in the bullfight entering the ring and presenting himself to the public. Two Alguacilillos, on horse's back, direct themselves to the presidency and symbolically ask for the keys to the "puerta de los toriles". Behind that door there are the bulls.
With the door being opened and the first bull entering the ring the spectacle starts. It consists of three parts, called tercios, being separated by horn-signals. There are three toreros in each Corrida, by the way, and each will have to torear two bulls.
In the first tercio the bullfighter uses the capote, a quite large rag of purple and yellow color. Now enter two picadores, on horse's back and armed with a sort of lance.
The second part is la suerte de banderillas. Three banderilleros have to stick a pair of banderillas into the attacking bull's back.
In the final "suerte suprema" the bullfighter uses the muleta, a small red rag. He has to show his faena, his ability to dominate the bull, and to establish an artistic symbiosis between man and beast. The Corrida ends with the torero killing the bull by his sword. Critics contend that bullfighting is an inhumane spectacle of animal torture; aficionados respond that it is a complex ritual central to Spanish culture.
In other countries bullfighting is not so cruel. The Portuguese practice a style of fighting from horseback in which the bull is not killed in the ring. The most humain ( bloodless corrida) is practised in California and in the south of France.
Now, when you know what bullfighting implies it is only up to you to see this rather pitiless but still thrilling show or not.
Some useful terms for bullfighting-goers:
Toro - bull
Plaza de toros - bullring
Corrida - bullfight
Matador - star bullfighter
Torero - bullfighter (general term applicable to any person who engages in the ultimate death of the bull)
Picador - lancer (on horseback)
Banderillero - bullfighter (on foot) who inserts barbed wooden decorated sticks into the bull's neck muscle
Traje de luces - suit of lights (colourful sequined suit worn by bullfighters)
Veronica - a type of pass whereby the cape is drawn over the bull's head while the man holds a posture.
Novillos - a novice bullfighter is called a novillero and fights not in a corrida, but in a novillada with young bulls (novillos)