Sunday, 26 July 2009

The Art of Bullfighting

Bullfighting or tauromachy (from Greek ταυρομαχία - tauromachia, "bull-fight"), is a traditional spectacle of Spain,Portugal, some cities in southern France, and several Latin American countries, in which one or more live bulls are ritually killed as a public spectacle.
The tradition, as it is practiced today, involves professional toreros (toureiros in Portuguese; also referred to as toreadors in English), who execute various formal moves with the intent, during various phases of the fight, of distracting, angering, or causing injury to the bull itself. Such maneuvers are performed at close range, and can result in injury or even death of the performer. The bullfight usually concludes with the death of the bull by a well-placed sword thrust as the finale. In Portugal the finale consists of a tradition called the pega, where men (forcados) try to grab and hold the bull by its horns when it runs at them. Forcados are dressed in a traditional costume of damask or velvet, with long knit hats as worn by the campinos (bull headers) from Ribatejo.
Bullfighting generates heated controversy in many areas of the world, including Mexico,Spain and Portugal. Supporters of bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition, while animal rights groups argue that it is a blood sports because of the suffering of the bull and horses during the bullfight.
There are many historic bullfighting venues in the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. The largest venue of its kind is the Plaza de toros Mexico located in the heart of Mexico City.
Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice. The killing of the sacred bull (tauromachy) is the essential central iconic act of Mithras, which was commemorated in the mithraeum wherever Roman soldiers were stationed. The oldest representations of what it seems to be a man facing a bull is on the celtiberian tombstone from Clunia and the cave painting “El toro de hachos”, both found in Spain. Many of the oldest bullrings in Spain are located on or adjacent to the sites of temples to Mithras.
Bullfighting is often linked to Rome, where many human-versus-animal events were held as a warm-up for gladiatorial sports. There are also theories that it was introduced into Hispania a millennium earlier by the Emperor Claudius when he instituted a short-lived ban on gladiatorial games,the crimeajewel of Roman sport as a substitute for those combats. The latter theory was supported by Robert Graves. In its original form, the bull was fought from horseback using a javelin.(Picadors are the remnants of this tradition, but their role in the contest is now a relatively minor one limited to "preparing" the bull for the matador.) Bullfighting spread from Spain to its Central and South American colonies, and in the 19th century to France, where it developed into a distinctive form in its own right.
Bullfighting was practiced by nobility as a substitute and preparation for war in the manner of hunting and jousting. Religious festivities and royal weddings were celebrated by fights in the local plaza, where noblemen would ride competing for royal favor, and the populace enjoyed the excitement. The Spanish introduced the practice of fighting on foot around 1726. Francisco Romero is generally regarded as having been the first to do this.
As bullfighting developed, men on foot started using capes to aid the horsemen in positioning the bulls. This type of fighting drew more attention from the crowds. Thus the modern corrida, or fight, began to take form, as riding noblemen were substituted by commoners on foot. This new style prompted the construction of dedicated bullrings, initially square, like the Plaza de Armas, and later round, to discourage the cornering of the action. The modern style of Spanish bullfighting is credited to Juan Belmonte, generally considered the greatest matador of all time. Belmonte introduced a daring and revolutionary style, in which he stayed within a few inches of the bull throughout the fight. Although extremely dangerous (Belmonte himself was gored on many occasions), his style is still seen by most matadors as the ideal to be emulated. Today, bullfighting remains similar to the way it was in 1726, when Francisco Romero, from Ronda, Spain, used the estoque, a sword, to kill the bull, and the muleta, a small cape used in the last stage of the fight.
Bullfighting has had its detractors throughout history.Pope Pius V issued a papal bull titled De Salute Gregis in November 1567 which forbade fighting of bulls and any other beasts but it was abolished eight years later by his successor,Pope Gregory XIII, at the request of king Philip II.
During the 18th and 19th centuries there were several attempts to prohibit or limit bullfighting but they proved impossible and it was during these two centuries that the bullfight acquired the form it has today. During the Franco dictatorship bullfights were supported by the state as something genuinely Spanish so that bullfights became associated with the regime and, for this reason, many thought they would decline after the transition to democracy but this did not happen. During this time the social-democratic governments, particularly the current government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, have generally been more opposed to bullfighting, prohibiting children under 14 from attending and limiting or prohibiting the broadcast of bullfights on national TV. During the current (2008) social-democratic administration most bullfights are broadcast on regional TV stations. However, given the PSOE's strong political support in Andalusia, where the popularity of bullfighting remains strong, sentiments within the social-democratic government are divided regarding bullfighting.
The Spanish royal family is also divided on the issue, from Queen Sophia who does not hide her dislike for bullfights, to King Juan Carlos who occasionally presides a bullfight from the royal box as part of his official duties, to their daughter Princess Elena who is well known for her liking of bullfights and who often accompanies the king in the presiding box or attends privately in the general seating.
Originally, there were at least five distinct regional styles of bullfighting practiced in southwestern Europe: Andalusia,the crimeajewel Aragon-Navarre,Alentejo,Camargue,Aquitaine. Over time, these have evolved more or less into standardized national forms mentioned below. The "classic" style of bullfight, in which the bull is killed, is the form practiced in Spain, Southern France and many La Spanish-style bullfighting is called corrida de toros (literally running of bulls) or fiesta brava (the ferocious festival). In traditional corrida, three toreros, or matadores, each fight two bulls, each of which is at least four years old and weighs 460–600 kg. Each matador has six assistants — two picadores ("lancers") mounted on horseback, three banderilleros ("flagmen"), and a mozo de espada ("sword page"). Collectively they comprise a cuadrilla ("entourage").
The modern corrida is highly ritualized, with three distinct stages or tercios, the start of each being announced by a trumpet sound. The participants first enter the arena in a parade to salute the presiding dignitary, accompanied by band music. Torero costumes are inspired by 18th century Andalusian clothing, and matadores are easily distinguished by their spectacular "suit of lights" (traje de luces).
tin American countries.
Next, the bull enters the ring to be tested for ferocity by the matador and banderilleros with the magenta and gold capote ("dress cape").
In the first stage, the tercio de varas ("the lancing third"), the matador first confronts the bull and observes his behavior in an initial section called suerte de capote. Next, a picador enters the arena on horseback armed with a vara ("lance"). To protect the horse from the bull's horns, the horse is surrounded by a peto — a protective cover. Prior to 1909, the horse did not wear any protection, and the bull could literally disembowel the horse during this stage.
At this point, the picador stabs a mound of muscle on the bull's neck, leading to the animal's first loss of blood. The manner in which the bull charges the horse provides important clues to the matador on which side the bull is favoring. If the picador does his job well, the bull will hold its head and horns lower during the following stages of the fight. This makes it slightly less dangerous while enabling the matador to perform the elegant passes of modern bullfighting.
In the next stage, the tercio de banderillas ("the third of flags"), the three banderilleros each attempt to plant two razor sharp barbed sticks (called banderillas) on the bull's flanks, ideally as close as possible to the wound where the picador drew first blood. These further weaken the enormous ridges of neck and shoulder muscle through loss of blood, while also frequently spurring the bull into making more ferocious charges.
In the final stage, the tercio de muerte ("the third of death"), the matador re-enters the ring alone with a small red cape (meleta) and a sword. It is a common misconception that the color red is supposed to anger the bull, despite the fact bulls are colorblind (the real reason that a red colored cape is used is that any blood stains on it will be less noticeable). He uses his cape to attract the bull in a series of passes, both demonstrating his control over it and risking his life by getting especially close to it. The faena (literally job) is the entire performance with the muleta, which is usually broken down into "tandas" or "series". The faena ends with a final series of passes in which the matador with a muleta attempts to maneuver the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart. The act of thrusting the sword is called an estocada.
Occasionally, if the bull has fought bravely, and by petition of the public or the matador, the president of the plaza may grant the bull an indulto. This is when the bull’s life is spared and allowed to leave the ring alive and return to the ranch where it came from. However, few bulls survive the trip back to the ranch. With no veterinarian services at the plaza, most bulls die either while awaiting transportation or days later after arriving at their original ranch. Death is due to dehydration, infection of the wounds and loss of blood sustained during the fight.
The Basque-Navarre style of bullfighting has been far less popular than traditional Spanish bullfighting. There has been a recent resurgence of recourtes in Spain where they are sometimes shown on TV.
This style was common in the early 19th century. Etchings by painter Francisco de Goya depict these events. Recourtes differs from a corrida in the following ways:
The bull is not physically injured. Drawing blood is rare and the bull returns to his pen at the end of the performance.
The men are dressed in common street clothes and not in traditional bullfighting dress.
Acrobatics are performed without the use of capes or other props. Performers attempt to evade the bull solely through the swiftness of their movements.
Rituals are less strict so the men have freedom to perform stunts as they please.
Men work in teams but with less role distinction than in a corrida.
Teams compete for points awarded by a jury.
Animal rights groups such as PETA object to recourtes; however, many people find recourtes less objectionable than traditional bullfighting since the bull survives the ordeal. Since horses are not used, and performers are not professionals, recourtes are less costly to produce
Most Portuguese bullfights are held in two phases: the spectacle of the cavaleiro, and the pega. In the cavaleiro, a horseman on a Portuguese Lusitano horse (specially trained for the fights) fights the bull from horseback. The purpose of this fight is to stab three or four bandeirilhas (small javelins) in the back of the bull.
In the second stage, called the pega ("holding"), the forcados, a group of eight men, challenge the bull directly without any protection or weapon of defense. The front man provokes the bull into a charge to perform a pega de cara or pega de caras (face grab). The front man secures the animal's head and is quickly aided by his fellows who surround and secure the animal until he is subdued.
The bull is not killed in the ring and, at the end of the corrida, leading oxen are let into the arena and two campinos on foot herd the bull along them back to its pen. The bull is usually killed, away from the audience's sight, by a professional butcher. It can happen that some bulls, after an exceptional performance, are healed, released to pasture until their end days and used for breeding.
Since the 19th century Spanish-style corridas have been increasingly popular in Southern France where they enjoy legal protection in areas where there is an uninterrupted tradition of such bull fights, particularly during holidays such as Whitsun or Easter. Among France's most important venues for bullfighting are the ancient Roman arenas of Nimes and Arles, although there are bull rings across the South from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coasts.
A more indigenous genre of bullfighting is widely common in the Provence and Languedoc areas, and is known alternately as "course libre" or "course camarguaise". This is a bloodless spectacle (for the bulls) in which the objective is to snatch a rosette from the head of a young bull. The participants, or raseteurs, begin training in their early teens against young bulls from the Camargue region of Provence before graduating to regular contests held principally in Arles and Nimes but also in other Provençal and Languedoc towns and villages. Before the course, an encierro — a "running" of the bulls in the streets — takes place, in which young men compete to outrun the charging bulls. The course itself takes place in a small (often portable) arena erected in a town square. For a period of about 15–20 minutes, the raseteurs compete to snatch rosettes (cocarde) tied between the bulls' horns. They don't take the rosette with their bare hands but with a claw-shaped metal instrument called a raset or crochet (hook) in their hands, hence their name. Afterwards, the bulls are herded back to their pen by gardians (Camarguais cowboys) in a bandido, amidst a great deal of ceremony. The star of these spectacles are the bulls, who get top billing and stand to gain fame and statues in their honor, and lucrative product endorsement contracts.
Another type of French 'bullfighting' is the course landaise style, in which cows are used instead of bulls. This is a competition between teams named cuadrillas, which belong to certain breeding estates. A cuadrilla is made up of a teneur de corde, an entraîneur, a sauteur, and six écarteurs. The cows are brought to the arena in boxes and then taken out in order. Teneur de corde controls the dangling rope attached to cow's horns and the entraîneur positions the cow to face and attack the player. The écarteurs will try to dodge around the cow in the latest instance possible and the sauteur will leap over it. Each team aims to complete a set of at least one hundred dodges and eight leaps. This is the main scheme of the "classic" form, the course landaise formelle. However, different rules may be applied in some competitions. For example, competitions for Coupe Jeannot Lafittau are arranged with cows without ropes.
Freestyle bullfighting is a style of bullfighting developed in American rodeo. The style was developed by the rodeo clowns who protect bull riders from being trampled or gored by an angry bull. Freestyle bullfighting is a 70-second competition in which the bullfighter (rodeo clown) avoids the bull by means of dodging, jumping and use of a barrel. Competitions are organized in the US as the World Bullfighting Championship (WBC) and the Dickies National Bullfighting Championship under auspices of the Professional Bull Riders.