Warning: this post contains my opinion on a topic that may be of a sensitive nature to some people. If you want to express your own thoughts on the subject, please use the comments below or my social media pages.
The historic town of Ronda was the first stop on my Spain trip for 2 main reasons:
1 – Fellow travellers had recommended the beautiful architecture and location to me (you can see my photos here)
2 – The Feria de Pedro Romero bullfighting event was due to take place
So as soon as I arrived in Ronda – without any prior knowledge or inclination to watch a bullfight – I bought myself a ticket for that very same evening. Here are my thoughts on what happened:
Immediately it was clear that bullfighting was a massive part of Spanish culture – there were street parties, parades and live music taking place all day during the lead-up to the main event.
Drinks were flowing, tapas were cooking, people were dressed for the occasion – it was a fantastic atmosphere to be part of.
[unfortunately I lost all my photos & videos of these parties when I drowned my phone in Portugal, so here is a picture of the pre-fight parade]
The Main Event
The event itself was split into a number of individual bullfights with different bulls and matadors (bullfighters). At first glance, each fight just looked like a fancily dressed guy waving a scarlet cloth and dodging a charging bull…which is essentially what bullfighting is.
But the closer I looked, I realised that the matadors were deliberately using certain moves to actually control the bulls behaviour. It really was a spectacle to watch. The costumes too were lavish and colourful but at the same time practical and designed with purpose.
Despite not being the biggest in the world, the traditional aspects of Ronda’s bullring shone through – it’s the only remaining example to be made entirely of stone and 100% of its seating is under cover (providing welcome shade from the sun or protection from a rare rain shower).
It was these elements that, along with the atmosphere, transported me to a different place, a new world almost – nothing like sitting at a modern day football match.
Learn the basics!
Try to learn a little bit about bullfighting before going to watch it as you’ll be able to understand the format of the fight and the purpose of the people/costumes involved (this honestly made such a difference for me) – use my link at the bottom of the page.
➲ The matadors may toss their hats over their shoulder before facing the bull with the muleta (scarlet cloth), but not all matadors will risk this ritual because if the hat lands upside down it is considered bad luck.
➲ If a matador performs particularly well then he will perform a lap of honour where spectators throw him all manner of items as tokens of appreciation for his efforts. Popular items are hats and fans (which are promptly returned, except if you’re sitting on the upper tier) but I witnessed a live chicken thrown – all part of the tradition I guess!
The Spanish people are so engrossed in this part of their culture; you can see it in the way they interact with the matadors (waving white handkerchiefs as the matadors perform a lap of honour) and dress up for the occasion. Despite being banned in many countries and many people being opposed to it, I’m semi-glad* that bullfighting remains a living part of Spanish culture – and I even recommend you to see a fight.
The whole affair is what made the bullfight so special for me – the pre-fight street parties, the live brass band, the audience interaction. What better way to see a fight than at one of the oldest and best preserved bullrings in the world – the Bullring of the Royal Cavalry of Ronda?!
*I’m well and truly torn here. I haven’t a clue what to think. I know what I should think (that bullfighting is bad and should be banned) but the fact that I witnessed a live event just alters my perspective slightly.
On the one hand, bullfighting is culturally important and I believe you have to respect that. On the other hand, I never like to see animals killed unnecessarily – whatever the reason. But then we’re getting into the blurred territory of what defines as necessary – is it really necessary to kill animals for their meat? Vegetarians will say no whereas meat-eaters like myself probably won’t think much of it.
So maybe the phrase should be – “I never like to see animals killed unethically“. For example, for trophy hunters or ivory trade. Or bullfighting.
I think for me, the fact that bulls aren’t part of an endangered species makes the tradition acceptable – and why I condemn the killing of elephants and tigers. But that in itself shouldn’t be a valid argument – it’s like saying that it’s okay for other animals to kill humans just because we’re not an endangered species!
Look, all I know is that watching a live bullfight was a unique experience that I’ll never forget. I’m both for and against bullfighting which is why I’m ‘semi-glad’ that it lives on to this day.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below or contact me through my social media pages.
Useful link for learning about bullfighting: www.servitoro.com
Don’t forget to check out my pictures of the beautiful Ronda by clicking here.