Feria, Plaza de Espana, and Dead Bulls

Jordan jumped into her feria dress as soon as breakfast was over and we were then on our way to the annual Sevilla feria. We walked quite a long while (for me at least) and arrived to the fairgrounds earlier than most people. The grounds were amazing with all the casetas (individual family tents) decorated in various fashions designed to make visitors feel at home, especially with kids, the elderly family members, and for later, the excessive drinking involved, from what I’ve heard. At €2.50 a ride, we became very discriminate buyers. The first ride was the only ride including all of us. It was a ferris wheel with individual 4 person cabs and since Jordan and Kelly are such lightweights, and Christopher and I aren’t, we had to be rearranged to be properly balanced for the fastest ferris wheel ride I’ve ever been on. Fun but unnerving. Jordan was having the time of her life on her first carnival ride. However, the meltdowns were beginning to rear their naughty little heads. We should have seen the signs that this little almost 4 year old was burning out.

We bought a couple of other ride tickets and balloons for her and we were off the grounds by 1 p.m. when throngs of people began to arrive. I’ve never seen anything like it. Horse drawn carriages pulling lovely señoritas dressed to the hilt, and the sedate well groomed elders in proper dress with suits and bolero ties.

We left the fairgrounds as most of Sevilla were arriving and found a restaurant advertised as Tex-Mex, something new for me as I only know Mexican food restaurants as Mexican food restaurants. This one had decor of guns, bullets, and Mexican hats (some very beautiful ones), along with old style photos of old style Wild West shots from Mexico. We also were serenaded by a guitar player all dressed up in A-typical Mexico garb as he visited each table. Instead of tortilla chips and salsa on the table, there were potato chips, which made Jordan very happy. Food is becoming a focal point in her need to get attention, and maybe a way of saying she wants to slow down to eat and rest.

Instead of going back to the apartment after the feria and lunch to rest up for my big night out, which would have been the wise thing to do, Christopher knew of an area which was recommended as a must see. We started to walk into a beautiful public park which smelled like flowers. This walk had not only the scent of jasmine and the peace of an uncrowded public park but also buildings in the Plaza de Espanal which were gorgeous. Even as wiped out as I already was, and knowing I had a long night ahead of me, I was happy to have taken on this detour.

As we began the walk back into town, the fatigue hit me like a bull ramming a horse (you’ll understand this soon) so with great relief, we stopped for espresso (cafe leche, which is what I should of said because without leche is without milk – horrors!). My son, with some urging from us, went ahead to an archeology museum as Kelly, Jordan and I started out for the long walk to town without him for the first time as just The Girls. We had become such a quad-team, that it seemed off balance but soon was just fine.

The Kids went to a bullfight the night before, and since taking a young child was not recommended, they bought me a ticket for the night after. I saw the photos they took and found them disturbing, but also knew that this was probably going to be the only chance to see for myself what the fascination has been for others over the centuries to see a bullfight. Like Ernest Hemingway, for instance.

It was becoming quite apparent that I wasn’t going to get any rest before hand and had to walk directly to the arena. We had been out walking and exploring since 10 a.m. and it was now close to 6 p.m. When I get tired, so does Jordan and vice versa. I hit the invisible and proverbial wall of sheer exhaustion which meant thanking Kelly for walking me this far to the bullring to let her and Jordan continue on to the apartment for dinner as I could find my way from there thanks to the other thousands of people going to the bullring who weren’t now at the Feria. I sat on a sidewalk bench and gathered strength and wits for about 10 minutes while watching hundreds of people walking along with colorful little cushions carried in sacks.

As I entered the perimeter of the ring, hawkers and bullfight paraphernalia were everywhere. Women were very dressed up, I noticed, and I was a far cry from that. I took Kelly’s advice to use the restroom beforehand as she said it was near to impossible to move once seated. She was so right. The stone bleachers were high, steep, and packed tight. Just climbing over the rows was difficult to navigate and required a hand of help now and then as I had to make my way slowly and deliberately to row 9, seat 36 with eventual success.

As I arrived, asking to confirm where I was supposed to sit with the guy behind me, I met a young man who was from Columbia who started asking me questions about this being my first bullfight, how I had come alone, where I was from, and to stick with them. The invitation proved to be helpful as I had a couple of questions during the fight. He also was impressed with what he called my “open mind” for even attending a bullfight in the first place as it was so much of a cultural thing in only 5 countries in the world.

First off, as I am an animal lover, the whole idea of this so-called sport or dance with death, is as appalling to me as the idea of the Romans putting the Christians in the Roman Coliseum with lions. Although the Christians were far less armed than either a matador or a bull therefore at a greater disadvantage.

Secondly, watching some poor animal die is less than appealing to me as would possibly watching the matador meet a similar fate. The Columbian man told me that someone would die tonight, either the man or the animal. He said this was a battle of minds and someone being the stronger of the two would overcome the opponent in death.

I found that the pomp and circumstance was impressive as the matadors entered the ring to 14,000 people (sold out show) who were cheering as enthusiastically as if at a rock star’s concert. The matadors costumes were brilliant with glittered sequins and the capes had hot pink linings with the matadors wearing pink hosiery to match. There were huge horses walking in blindfolded with heavily padded back and side coverings led by less flashy costumed men. Then the fighting began.

I’m one of those people who can see blood by way of an accident, say with one of my kids getting stitched up after a fall when they were young, very clinically and stoically while the emergency is occurring. It is only after the ordeal is over that I view the circumstances more emotionally.

With that said, people are right to say children should not be in bullfighting arenas. I saw a child being carried over the bleachers who was about Jordan’s age and I could not imagine her being there without me putting my hand over her eyes for most of the 2 1/2 hours I was there.

The bull is made to become increasingly more exhausted with each tiptoed swirl of the cape, each pompadour’s stab of a spear, each ram the bull gives to the blindfolded padded horse, and each drop of blood that falls on the immaculately cleaned dirt grounds. The crowd almost whispers that word we have all heard at one time or another, “Ole” as the cape carefully and skillfully skims across the bull’s head. This traditionally fueled fight becomes much more one sided when the bull is only hanging on to life with his last thread of dignity knowing death is his alone.

The matador is on display for his skill in how long it takes to cleanly end this dance of death and If he does this well, the president of the bullfight, who is sitting in a special stone boxed area dead center of the ring, waves a flag that he is pleased with the performance. When this is the case, the audience members then also all wave their own flags which are small white handkerchiefs fluttering throughout the stands. The matador can then, and only then, take a ceremonial walk around the interior circle of the ring bowing as he picks up items the audience throws on the ground beside him, kisses it, and tosses it back to the owner of the item. Great cheers ensue if the item’s owner catches it on the fly.

If no flag is raised, the crowd murmurs discontent and the shamed matador walks out of the ring shamed by his poor performance. The bull is very dead one way or the other.

This went on six times, with seven bulls, and only one matador was given a standing ovation with thousands of white kerchiefs waving. The odd bull out was the first bull, (who was a tan color when all the rest were black), and whose front legs kept buckling in the very first few cape swirls causing interruptions in the flow of things and great sympathetic sighs from the fans of the bull. After an unsuccessful attempt to remove the poor little guy by ushering him out, they sent in a whole herd of black and white bulls whom he eventually followed out of the ring as they were pushed to stampede from the ring. I wonder if he was “put out to pasture” like “Ferdinand the Bull” or was he met by some other dastardly fate for having failed to die a so-called quick death.

The Columbian man asked me what I thought about the fight as we all started to leave and I told him, “I have now experienced it, and there is no need for me to ever do it again.”

Kinda like other things in life we don’t like and wish to never to experience again, eh? Ole…

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8 thoughts on “Feria, Plaza de Espana, and Dead Bulls

  1. Amazing job of writing, Vivian. I opted out of all offers in Spain and here in Mexico to ever view a bullfight. If one ever had an idea that men, especially, have advanced from cave mentality, a bullfight would argue well against that notion. And I do understand the primal urge for these sorts of displays. We truly are cave people living in extremely complex times when a little more cerebral evolution would be welcome, no? Still…other than that, the evoking of memories of the tents, the photos of the lovely dresses, the flamenco guitars…oh, my. Here, about 4 blocks away, I get to hear great flamenco and Spanish and Mexican guitar on Monday nights. The primary guitarist studied in Seville. Wonderful… And, the wall is the wall. All at once, you are so done and cannot go any longer. Like a kid when being tired kicks in. We just don’t have a noticeable tantrum. And taxis aren’t exactly thick on the ground there. Can’t wait to hear what happens next.

  2. Hey, thanks Lorraine! Yeah, the testosterone is high at a bull fight. Amazingly high! Working…slowly…on next installment. Off to Sintra today in the rain.

    • Jordan is going to love these posts and photos when she gets older. Glad you’re traveling with a kid who burns out, too, and needs naps and rests. Hope your next trip is to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle where I am…

      • Well….when she needs a nap and doesn’t get one, the fire of her Leo sign starts burning bright and heaven help us if we even look at her. Oy. Maybe visiting you in Mexico will happen, who knows?!? Thanks!!

  3. Vivian, hi — have been fascinated by your posts (and photos!) . . .adventures with Jordan, the odd encounters (like the “baby” and the parrot lady), the art and food and people and landscapes . . . and your description of being at the bullfight really got to me . . . (I found myself feeling so sorry for the bulls!) . . . it’s all especially a treat knowing we’ll get to see some of it, too! (By the way — we got the ipad –a bit of a learning curve with it . . but seems like it’ll be quite useful . . . are you using it for your photos?) Looking forward to your next installment. And make sure you get a good nap in now and then.

    • Congrats on the iPad, Steph! Sure, definitely a learning curve but you’ll love it. Most of the photos in my blogs are taken with my camera. Photos posted on FB are mostly via iPad. That is the one drawback, inability to download photos from my camera. However, I read there is a way to do it, just haven’t forced myself to find out since I’m using Blue’s laptop to download.
      I felt very sorry for the bulls, too. Someone told me that they live extraordinary plush lives in preparation to fight and die in the bull ring, so I shouldn’t feel bad for them. I still do.
      Naps have been rare…so much to see and do!

  4. It is weird knowing you are back now, as I write this…
    First let me say, I love that you were in Seville for their spring fair! How wonderfully special! And I love, love, love that Jordan had her 1st fair experience in a foreign country: what a wonderful memory!!
    Her dress is stunning…but her face full of joy to be at that fair is pure beauty!!! I love your pictures from the fair–my favorite (after the one of Jordie on the ferris wheel) was of the one taken from behind of elderly man with the cane and the voluptuous woman walking arm and arm together! Love it!

    I love that you had a Spanish Johnny Cash serenading you in a Tex-Mex restaurant in Spain! LOL

    As for the bull fighting… gag, gluck, ugh, NO THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can’t believe you were able to sit through it! But now, thanks to you, I shall never even think about attending should the opportunity ever arise!

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