Monday, June 11, 2012


Bullfighting used to be a very popular sport in many Latin Countries. I am not sure if it still is. I think in many counties, laws have been passed to prohibit this sport.  Quite honestly, when I went to see a bullfight, it did seem to me to be a little cruel.  This impression that I had was not because I come from a background where I would be inclined to squeamishness.  Having been raised on a farm, I know what it is like to slaughter a cow.  We usually butchered a cow every year for meat for our family.
But bullfighting is different.  It is done for sport.  As I have said, to me it was a little gory to watch.  The bull, after having been tortured with knives and points stuck into him to make him bleed, then has a man on a horse push with all his weight on the end of a spear into the bull’s shoulder to increase his pain. It is after all of this that the bull is harassed to a frenzy by a man with a red cape.  The man is called a matador, which is fitting since the meaning of the word is “killer”.
The matador’s last deed in the bullfight is to draw his sword and thrust it into the bull’s shoulder at just the right spot so that the blade will reach the bull’s heart to bring him the defeat.  I think the thrust is also supposed to cut the bull’s spinal cord.  I must say, the first time I saw it I was a bit aghast.  The bull, once he has had the fatal blade pierce him, stands where he was stuck, spits up blood until he finally collapses.  It is then that the crowd cheers and the matador bows amidst a of shower of roses thrown by those in the adoring crowd.
A more humane sport but by no means tamer is “Torro Coleado”.  This was a sport that was at least in Venezuela, and most popular in the llanos, or the “plains” region of that country. It is like a rodeo event.  The bull is let loose on the track and a vaquero on a horse rides up alongside of the bull and grabs his tail.  The object of the sport is to twist the tail of the bull to the point where the bull is thrown to the ground.  This, like most rodeo events, grew out of practices that the cowboy had to perform in his daily work.  In Torro Coleado, the bigger the bull, the more points earned.  They throw some pretty big bulls; up to 1300 pounds.
There is something of the machismo mystique involved with these sports.  Manly power over the beast.  Of course, there are many who would not agree that this shows machismo.  They would say that there is a good bit of cowardness involved, at least in the traditional bullfight. When we lived in Latin America and I heard someone talk of a bullfight, I used to relate to them something that I was forced to do at one time and which I told them was the ultimate macho experience. Usually when I told it, they laughed at the story and agreed that this was indeed something that demonstrated great machismo.
As I earlier said, in all my years of growing up on the farm, we always butchered out own cows.  None of us really enjoyed it but it is one of those tasks that, if you wanted to eat, had to be done.  Initially, to kill the cow we would fire one shot from a gun to the middle of his forehead.  This was the most humane way.  The cow would instantly fall to the ground and we would then cut the jugular vein in his neck to drain out all of the blood. 
One fall day when I was a young man we were all set up to butcher a steer that we had raised.  My Dad was there and my brother-in-law.  As always, Dad fired the shot into the head of the steer and the steer instantly fell to the ground. However, this time and for whatever reason (perhaps his scull was very thick or the caliber of the gun too small), after falling down, the steer quickly got to his feet again and began to run away.  That was not supposed to happen.  When I saw what had transpired, one of my first thoughts was that the steer, now very frightened and angry (and very much alive), would take off running down the road and it would be an all day job just to chase him down and get him back home.
I was holding the knife used to cut the jugular, and without too much thought of what I was doing, took off running after the steer.  I caught up to him after a couple of hundred feet and jumped on his back.  With one arm I held on to the running steer and with the other arm, I reached around with the knife and stuck him in the neck.  I went right for the jugular, as the saying goes.  But this time it was not an expression; it was literal.  The steer continued to run and I hung on tight to stay on his back. With my free arm reaching around his neck, I continued to cut until finally he collapsed.  I brought the steer down.
It was an act that I know none of the matadors of Spain or Latin America had ever done.  Nevertheless, I received no fanfare for my own act of machismo.  Maybe my Dad and my Brother-in-law cheered, I don’t remember.  But they didn’t throw roses.

1 comment:

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.