BULLS AND THEIR HISTORY


On the Iberian peninsula the toro roamed free. This meant that he naturally upset a few garden parties when he arrived uninvited to your picnic.

There exists something of a mystical subconscious bond between man and Bulls.


Whether sketched on cave walls in 15,000 BC or celebrated in confrontations and confirmations in Prehistoric Egypt which held a law that no man could rule the Nile waters without first proving he had dominance over the lands; and hence would have to kill a bull once a year. The labyrinths of Crete and mythical bulls of ancient Greece attest to this respectful veneration between the two worlds.

 

Ruins of the oldest bull plaza in the world

The pageantry of the bulls originated historically from the ancient Spanish custom of holding village fairs once a year. Usually, the wealthiest man in every village purchased just such a ferocious bull so that he could put it in a corralled area and being the mightiest in town could demonstrate his masculine prowess by lancing the beast in front of the local villagers and peasants.

The bull had to be manoeuvred into position quite often so that the mounted aristocrat could demonstrate his skills. The “capers” of the TOROS had nothing but a cloth cape to defend themselves. However, some took risks and enjoyed their dangerous task. They started showing off their cleverness, dexterity and bravery-- and in fact, soon upstaged the patron to such an extent that people started coming from miles around to view the “TOREROS”, that new special category of bold and heroic character whose daring, cunning and fleet of foot were much admired. The art (toreando) was born and has evolved to this day. It is always best to use the true Spanish words when discussing the event.


“Bull-fighting” is a wrong word for the spectacle, which is pure theatre-- real authentic drama-- ending in death. The toro is a ferocious instinctive killing machine for anything it confronts. A hundred years ago bulls were put in cages and matched against tigers, buffaloes, elephants and bears-- the TORO always won.

In modern days the enchanted bond is enhanced by observing the matador make his first opening pass. The primordial MYSTERY evolves in the whoosh of the cape. The bull will stay with it fixated and determined to kill AND as long as the man can keep his knees from quivering or legs from shaking—almost magically-- the bull charges ONLY the cape.

This bull charged so straight and true (called a Toro Azul by the aficionados) —it was pardoned (indultado).


When a bull is so brave that it never stops charging, attacking proving its veracity it is pardoned. A rare event I am pleased to have witnessed four times. The president hangs over his balcony an orange kerchief (panuelo naranja). Doctors are immediately alerted and specialist flown in from afar to treat such a UNIQUE SPECIMEN.

The entire plaza enjoys a mass catharsis of love and embraces. With tear filled eyes the matador pretends to kill the bull with his hand simulating the sword—AND THE CELEBRATIONS BEGIN.

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Copyright © Ric Polansky Spanish version