Flip Flop Flying


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I did something I thought I’d never ever do yesterday: I went to a bullfight.

Being a fruity, European liberal chap, I don’t approve of such things. Fox hunting, badger baiting, cock fights, bullfights: all the same thing in my book. And while I have no desire to go and see a dog fight or a fox hunt, there is something about bullfighting that piqued my curiosity. Maybe it’s because it’s a big event, rather than some sleazy, in-a-dirty-warehouse event.

I can’t really explain why I wanted to go, but I wanted to see it with my own eyes. It still freaks me out that I did go. And it has been on my mind constantly since. Frankly, it’s fucked up.

Firstly, the stadium is pretty impressive. Plaza de toros México is the largest bullfighting stadium in the world. The cheap seats are up at the top, on the side which gets the full glare of the sun. That cost 55 pesos, roughly £2.50.

It’s all well and good up to this point, because I’m just drinking beer in the sunshine, enjoying the friendliness of the folks sat around, who all say hello when they take their seats. And on the, err, pitch(?) the matadors come out to a trumpety fanfare, and look quite wonderful in their fancy kits. I mean, who doesn’t like pink socks, right?

Then we get down to business. A bull is released into the arena, and a bunch of matadors hide behind little walls, each taking turns to come out and flap their pink things to attract the bull’s attention. When the bull gets close, they slink off behind the wall like pussies.

I’m not sure of the rhyme or reason behind who it is that comes out, but one of the matadors encroaches further and further into the ring, and it seems like this is his fight; the others are just there to help wear the bull down a bit. Once again, I find myself thinking that this is unfair. The bull gets very little chance to get in a proper fight, cos the moment he gets close, there’s suddenly all the other matadors running around trying to distract him.

Then some dude comes into the middle with these two pointy sticks and tempts the bull to charge him, before trying to ram the sticks into his neck. This is the point when my liberal conscience really kicks in. Blood is pissing out of the bull’s neck, and he’s still being goaded into fighting with a matador.

Then comes the real problem for my brain. I hate this. A bull being needlessly tortured and ground down, but I couldn’t help but be a little bit impressed at the gracefulness of the duel between the solo matador and the bull. It’s horrible and beautiful.

(In a couple of photo’s time, you’re going to see a dead bull, so stop scrolling now if you don’t want to see that.)

Slowly, the bull is being exhausted of all energy to keep fighting. He puts up a valiant effort to keep going, he’ll slip and get back up to give it another go, but eventually he succumbs to his injuries and tiredness. Then he falls and doesn’t get up. It’s a shocking moment. I’ve been wracking my brain to think of another time, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mammal die before. It knocked the wind out of my sails. It was disgusting.

A couple of horses are pranced into the ring, and they swiftly drag the bull away while the matador absorbs the cheers of the crowd.

If the matador had done a particular good show, lots of hats and flowers are thrown into the ring. If the judges decide he’s been good, an ear of the bull is cut off and given to the victor.

We learned this from this guy below, Paco. He explained that the ear is the trophy for a good matador. The better the matador, the “better” the trophy. Some get ears, some get the tail. An exceptional performance gets you the feet, something that Paco said occurred rarely; every two or three years.

The one saving grace of being at the bullfight was the friendliness of Paco. He’s the same age as me, and has been going every week for twenty years. He took time and pleasure in explaining things to us. He was well aware that the man from Inglaterra comes from a country that frowns upon bullfighting and tried to explain or justify the spectacle by telling us that the breeders of the bulls work hard to breed a good fighter, just as horse breeders try to train horses to be fast or jump well. I’m not really buying that.

But he was a lovely fellow. Lending us his binoculars to look at specific things he was explaining, talking us through the bulls and matadors, and best of all letting us drink his booze and eat bits of the food that he and his friends bring along. It’s not allowed to bring food or drink, but each of his gang bring a small part of a picnic. One will have some chicken hidden in his sock, another will have a can of jalapeños, another some tortillas.

And the booze is superb. They have these leather flasks, the kind I’ve only ever seen in western movies. Each person’s flask is full of their preferred cocktail. The one Paco shared with us was red wine, mineral water, sangria, and rum. It was really very delicious, once I’d got the hang of squirting it into my mouth rather than all over my glasses and nose.

It was nice distraction from the action in the ring, and by the end, I was quite drunk.

Still, I won’t be going again. I’m glad I’ve seen a bullfight. I still think it should be stopped. But, the friendliness of Paco and his pals made for a pleasant afternoon, despite the horrors going on down below.

Written by Craig

January 14th, 2008 at 8:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses to 'Bullshit'

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  1. You have got a very expressive face. I would personally like to see you in a hat, and maybe a little scarf.


    14 Jan 08 at 15:33

  2. This is really disappointing Craig. Patronage by any other name Im afraid despite your sympathies. Horrible and beautiful? Good Lord! Please dont say “unless you’ve been, you dont know”, murder is murder isnt it and this barbarism deserves to be thrown back to antiquity from were it came. I hope the curiosity that pulled you in with hindsight helps to steer you clear of other such events.


    14 Jan 08 at 16:40

  3. Lee, I totally understand what you’re saying, and I hope I got that across in the post. I agree that by paying to be there I was, in a small way, supporting it. And I would never say “unless you’ve been, you don’t know”. But I wanted to see it for myself.

    And, difficult as it is to separate the reality of the slow murder of a bull, there is beauty in the way the matador moves. Just as a ballet dancer is beautiful. Given the choice, in no way would I forsake the life of those bulls for such beauty; but it does happen every week over here, and, I wanted to see it with my own eyes.

    It fucks with my brain. It’s difficult to put into words what went through my head when I saw that first bull go down. Bullfighting, at that point, was no longer an abstract thing that I was against; it became real, and my objection became stronger.

    I’m certainly not going to go again, but I can see how someone who doesn’t view it as barbarism would enjoy being there.


    14 Jan 08 at 17:04

  4. I think Craig was quite clear in saying –
    “I don’t approve of such things”, “It was disgusting” “I’m not buying that”
    It’s a tricky area about paying to see something like this – if you haven’t seen it, supporters will always say your opinion counts for nothing


    14 Jan 08 at 17:35

  5. I went to see cock fighting in the Philippines. We also had amazing hospitality from the locals. When I first saw a cock die, you could easily define the moment of death, it was shocking, but I’m glad I went, it was allot less cruel than I had expected and I’ll admit I enjoyed myself.

    I was surprised to see that the cocks went straight for each other without any goading or encouragement. When I subsequently read about it on the net the sites made statements like ‘they are forced to fight’ and ‘fights take up to half an hour’. The fights I saw were over in less than a minute.

    Maybe “unless you’ve been, you don’t know”, isn’t such a stupid thing to say after all. The subject of blood sport is so emotive that there is allot of misinformation out there perhaps it is best to get the experience before you with your judge.


    15 Jan 08 at 15:04

  6. Craig, Please dont misunderstand me, I am fully aware that you find the killing of animals for sport abhorent. Thats why I was only ‘disappointed’ and not reviled.

    I disagree entirely with you though Mark when you wrote.
    “It’s a tricky area about paying to see something like this – if you haven’t seen it, supporters will always say your opinion counts for nothing”. Ive never seen a murder first hand but Im sure its wrong but it was coarse of me to make such an obvious point.
    There are somethings that are as close to absolutes as there can be regardless of a persons participation or intention. The physical viewing of them in the name of curiosity is no defence, especially when you know its wrong. We lambast people who slow down at traffic accidents yet somehow in the theme of research its ok to gain knowledge on a blood sport by patronage? Just this once is ok?
    What I worry about is the underlying reason for going to watch such a thing. I dont wish to doubt your beliefs Craig but I do wonder if somewhere inside, what the fascination with a spectacle is when you know it to be wrong. I wont be so crude as to speculate here though.
    Oh and there is nothing in the slightest bit beautiful about a murderer regardless of how they arc their body when they slash or stab.

    Oh and to mjohnson. Dont be so bloody naive, and the reason killing in the name of a “sport” is so emotive is cos it raises emotions of revulsion or excitement. I can tell which one you felt and it sickens me. The cocks are goaded for weeks on end to be aggressive so no wonder they went for each other.

    Maybe Im judging people on my own morality and you should never trust anyone who believes in absolutes but…death for fun is not acceptable regardless of the species that suffers the cruelty.


    15 Jan 08 at 15:48

  7. Just for the sake of information, only one of those is the matador. The one who eventually gets a red cape and a sword and kills the bull at the end. The others are banderilleros. A banderilla is the name of one of the small colourful lances they stick on the poor critter. A matador’s costume is supposed to be more glamourous but you can’t really tell the difference most of the time.


    15 Jan 08 at 18:11

  8. Makes me cry.


    19 Jan 08 at 21:09

  9. “in no way would I forsake the life of those bulls for such beauty”

    …but for a steak, or a nice juicy burger..?!? ;-)

    Chris Russell


    14 May 08 at 12:43

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