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BULLFIGHTS&BEACHES May 25, 2010

Posted by Becky Byler in Travel Log.
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Inside Evora's Famous Bullfighting Ring

My short stay in Portugal is officially complete: I attended a bullfight yesterday! It was perhaps one of the most amazing things to happen to me this trip, despite the fact that I was so nervous about attending because of all the blood I knew would be present. Something about harming innocent animals for sport just isn’t that attractive to me; however, the bullfight was not what I was expecting. Apparently, Portuguese and Spanish bullfights are completely different from each other, which made me actually enjoy the experience so much more! I ended up sitting next to a friendly Portuguese man who gave me a running commentary of what exactly was going on during the fight, and I felt very lucky to have had such a good guide to bullfighting!

The first difference between the two countries’ fights is how the bull and the fighter interact: in Spain, a matador fights on foot, while, in Portugal, a horseman fights the bull. This changes the type of interaction between the bull and fighter, and, in my opinion, leads to a less graphic fight. Also, because the horseman must also honor the bull throughout the entire fight, he is not just evaluated on his bravery, but also his ability to showcase the bull and his horse. As such, there are only a limited number of small javelins that are put into the bull’s back, usually between 4-6, and the point of this first phase is for the horsemen to exhibit their skill in the arena without mortally wounding the bull or causing it dishonor.

The Portuguese are all about maintaining the bull’s honor, which is why Portuguese bullfights have two phases instead of one. Portuguese do not believe in killing the bull in the ring, preferring to butcher them professionally and humanely once the fight is over, which is why a group of eight men attempt to catch the bull and calm it down during the second phase of the fight. In contrast, the bull is killed in the ring in Spain.

Phase Two: Catching the Bull

This second phase, called Pega, is a heart-stopping spectacle to watch, as one front man directly challenges the bull without any protection and has only his seven friends to back him up once he catches the bull’s face by himself. It is of the highest honor when the front man catches the bull on his first attempt; however, this rarely happened during the bullfight. In fact, the bulls were so huge (most were around 600+ kg) that it took several attempts in order to subdue the animal and several people were carried away unconscious in stretchers. The bulls were incredibly angry, so it made sense that there would be so many bloody injuries. A cool fact about this phase of the bullfight- my friend told me that there must only be eight men catching the bull, since tradition states that a bull has the strength of eight men.

I was initially horrified at the stabbing of the bulls, and the amount of blood the bulls’ were losing from the wounds, but, by the time the sixth and final bull was in the ring, I truly appreciated the fight for its art and tradition behind the showmanship. Nevertheless, I don’t think that I would be able to sit through a Spanish bullfight and see an animal be killed in front of me, which is why I am so glad I was given this opportunity to see a fight in Portugal.

All of the Girls on Guincho Beach Near Cascais, Portugal

Today’s trip to Cascais was very different from the bullfights yesterday, but it was a much needed, relaxing break. Cascais is a great little beach town an hour away from Lisbon by train, and, after waking up late since we were at a Fado club last night, we spent the day relaxing on the beach. It was positively gorgeous- white sand, blue water, small crashing waves, and picturesque castles on the top of nearby hills. I don’t think we could have picked a better location.

After enjoying the sun, we headed back to Lisbon, following the coast on our way back into the city. Talk about a beautiful sunset, and a great end to an amazing weekend!

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Comments»

1. Loofa - August 31, 2010

How could you? It’s so cruel. I doesn’t matter how different Portuguese bullfights are from Spanish bullfights. They hurt the bull. Why do you think it’s so angry?
By going to see people hurt a bull just for fun, you are promoting this kind of entertainment. Just what kind of person are you?


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