Death in the Afternoon
How did I end up shouting Libertar (Catalan for Liberty) marching in a crowd trailing a victorious matador hoisted on the shoulders of proud fans followed by police paddy wagons and surrounded by polizia fitted in riot gear? In David Byrne’s words ‘You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile… And you may ask yourself, Self, how did I get here?’
I had the privilege of seeing three different outcomes of bullfights including the rare occurrence of the judge granting amnesty to the bull after a particularly impressive performance by matador and bull. The bull is returned to the pasture that raised him to sire offspring. This rare honor to matador and bull results in scores of people rushing into the bullring to ride the matador around the ring in a victory lap then out onto the streets stopping traffic. We followed as part of the crowd out of the stadium. I don’t know where the crowd was headed as Erin and I hopped on a metro after about 20 minutes. I hope it was to a special bar open to celebrate triumphant matadors.
This was the result of the final match.
The first bull we saw killed was done so from a swift, confident impalement of the matador’s sword through the shoulder blades into the heart of the bull. The bull staggered a few seconds and then collapsed dead. The crowd waved white handkerchiefs signaling the judge to award the matador. The judge complied by displaying one and then two white kerchiefs of his own signifying that the matador deserved the high honor of receiving both of the bulls ears. The matador received the honors and took a slow circuit of the ring. Spectators through flowers, hats, and shirts into the ring which the matador and his entourage of picadillos and borerillos caught and threw back into the crowd.
This was in stark contrast from the exit of the next torero who sulked off the ring after needing to stab the bull three times before delivering the mortal blow.
Attending a bull fight was top of my list to do while in Spain.
I’ve been waiting to see a bullfight for 18 years. I begin reading Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway when I was 17. Halfway through the book Hemingway asks you to stop reading if you have never been to a bullfight. I dutifully set the book down – thus begin my wait.
The 18 year wait was worth it. Done writing this post as I have a book to finish. Good night.
IMPORTANT : Arrive before the event commences! We arrived to pick up our pre-purchased tickets 5 minutes after the start time of 6:00pm and the entire ticket office was closed. Dozens of people were confusingly turned away because the office closes when the event begins. I’d assumed that you could purchase purchase your ticket or at least pick up will call tickets anytime during the match. This is not the case – at least not at Monumental de Toro in Barcelona. I assume the staff wants to see the fight too.
We only were able to enter the stadium through the graces and personal judgment of a security guard. Don’t risk it! Get to the stadium before the time posted on your ticket!
Surprisingly this ticket office closure isn’t due to a sold out stadium as you might have expected. Upon our spurious entrance we saw the stadium was only half full. A different culture that would forgo all that revenue.
BTW, I was able to purchase advanced tickets while in the states on the following website http://www.neoturismo.com/es/inicio
Public service announcement over.