Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My First (And Last) Bullfight

What comes to your mind when you think of a bullfight?
Spain, matadors in sequined costume and a funny hat, powerful bulls with big horns, tradition, culture, Ole!

Huanchac, Peru is a little village just up the hill from Huaraz, Peru in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. Maybe 500 people live there. It is beautiful country.

Their annual fiesta concluded yesterday with a bullfight. I've always wanted to see a bullfight, even though in recent years I have grown more sensitive to the killing of animals. This is the first chance I've ever had to see the event for myself and I was curious to check it out, as much for the small town fiesta as for the actual bullfight.

The late afternoon light on the mountains was beautiful as children of all ages eagerly awaited the entrance of the matador and bull. Aside from my two friends and I, no other gringos were present.

But before the matador arrived, there were rodeo clowns who played around with a couple other bulls. This part lasted much longer than the fight itself. Eventually the matador arrived. He is from Spain and must be on a tour through South America. There wasn't as much pomp and circumstance to his introduction as I expected. He just strolled out to a relatively sedate crowd. Is that because the crowd isn't sure if the matador is the good guy or the bad guy? I dunno.
They danced and dazzled but we all knew what was coming. It just didn't feel fair -- the experienced human knowing that the small-minded bull will keep charging after the colored cape. I understand it takes years of training to be a matador, but I wasn't impressed. I understand, too, that the bulls are bred for this moment. They are born in captivity in order that they might have this life and death.

But does that make it any more right?
Is this the life and death it would choose for itself if it could?

After the death blow, a clean strike from the matador's sword, the bull went down within 30 seconds and appeared dead soon thereafter. The crowd was sullen and silent and began filing out of the arena.
Due to a fortuitous meetup, my friend Chris from Bozeman was here with me. He grew up on a ranch and claimed that this is an honorable way for a bull to die. But I'm not convinced.

I feel that by witnessing a bullfight in person I can now speak more honestly and accurately about my feelings about it. Obviously I didn't grow up with any of the tradition like someone who grew up in rural Peru or Spain. But I see no reason for this tradition to continue and feel no need to bear witness to the spectacle ever again.

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