Can I blame Hemingway? Watching a bullfight at the Roman amphitheater in Nimes
|Not only for men - the women around us had definite opinions on the performances of the matadors.|
Warning: this post contains graphic images of bullfighting.
I'm still not sure what I was thinking but let me try to explain. When Stephane asked if I wanted to watch a bullfight at the ancient Roman amphitheater in Nîmes, images of Ernest Hemingway and The Sun Also Rises popped into my brain. And since I'm an American expatriate living in Paris, it seemed like the thing to do.
But why am I writing about it? Shouldn't I just move on to the next post and pretend as if it never happened? That's what one side of my brain has been urging me to do. The other side, however, reminds me that this blog is a journal about this period of my life and that I did go to a bullfight. There's no denying it.
While dining in close quarters at a tapas bar after the bullfight, we spoke with several aficionados, who all asserted that bullfighting is an art on a par with ballet. One impeccably dressed Parisian woman in her sixties enthused about the grace and skill of the matadors. When she explained that their harmonious communion with the bulls often reach levels of the sublime, the other diners nodded their heads in agreement. The French Ministry of Culture has even listed bullfighting as part of the cultural heritage of France.
When I told the aficionados that the inhumane treatment of the bulls overshadowed the well-executed movements of the matador, they replied that it was a shame that my first bullfight was so bloody and blamed the matador's poor performance. The matador, in turn, stated on his website that he attributed it to the inferior breeding of the bulls.
Now I'm going to share something that doesn't make me proud - after telling Stephane that the scenes in the arena were making me ill, he asked if I wanted to leave. And my response? I enquired how much he had paid for the tickets. My brain must have been addled by the sight of so much blood, for I can't help but wonder how long I would have stayed if he had paid more than 160 Euros ($ 220). When we reached the locked exit gate, the guard confirmed that we really wanted to leave. Assuring him that we did, he said, "Then I release you." With a sigh of relief, we walked down a narrow side street made impassable by the large crowd gathered to watch the bullfight on television.
In a dual called a mano-a-mano, the top two French bullfighters, Juan Bautista and Sébastian Castella alternately fought six bulls on September 17, 2011.
The following photos show the three stages of a bullfight.
Tercio de Varas (Lances third): Shortly after the bull enters the ring, the picadors arrive on horseback and stick a lance in the bull to pierce its thick neck muscle and straighten its charge. Enraged, the bull uses its horns to attack the horse, thus further fatiguing the neck muscles and causing the 1,146 pound (520 kg) bull to lower its head. It's during this critical first stage that the matador assesses the movements of the bull, determines its character and discovers any quirks that it may have.
|Juan Bautista, one of the top two French matadors.|
|The picador plants the first lance.|
Tercio de Banderillas (Banderillas third): The three banderilleros attempt to plant two brightly colored barbed sticks in the bull's shoulders. This causes an additional weakening of the neck and shoulder muscles and loss of blood. After the banderilleros have finished their work, the matador waves his cape inciting the bull to charge. I didn't take any photos during this stage.
|Using a small red cape, Bautista brings the bull in for one of the last passes.|
|Bautista plants the entire sword in the bull during the final blow.|
|Bautista studies the bull to determine if he will need to use another|
dagger to cut the spinal cord and hasten death.
|The bull is hauled out of the arena to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd.|
|A crowd watching the bullfight on television.|