Saturday, August 29, 2009

Well, it's August 29th and the sun is shining. Which it may not do again this year. So I'm off down to Plaza Verdura for some wine and maybe some calamares. I'm copping out and leaving you with this account of bullfighting in 1808, by our French friend M. Rocca. Who found himself at a loose end in Madrid, in between slaughtering Spaniards and pillaging the countryside. Good to see that he could appreciate the couleur locale. . .

En passant, the word chulo these days has different meanings from those of 1810. Including, I think, 'pimp'. But mostly 'cocky'.

Oh, and these days packs of dogs don't rip up the wimpy bulls. They go home to mother.

Apart from that, Plus ça change . . .

The origin of bull-fights among the Spaniards is derived from the Moors, shepherds of Africa, a nation skilled in training horses, in managing unruly flocks, and conquering the wild beasts of the desert. The Spaniards inherit from the Moors the practice of a wandering life, which they have preserved even to our times. Throughout Spain there are extensive tracks left for the travelling flocks. The king and the grandees have vast studs appropriated to the raising of choice breeds of horses and bulls. The royal stud of Aranjuez, on the banks of the Tagus, is fifteen or twenty leagues in circumference. Gentlemen formerly fought on the bull-festivals; but they seldom now present themselves in the arena, either because the manners of the age are become milder by time, or rather, perhaps, because the frequent abode in the capital and the pleasures of courts have extinguished for the moment in the Spanish nobles their inclination for such sports.

We should form a very wrong idea of the bull that is to fight, if we judged of him by those which are seen, in some countries of the north, straying innocently through the meadows round the herdsmen which guard them : he is not the friend, the peaceable companion of the husbandman, the ox accustomed to bow his head gently to the yoke fastened to his horns, to obey without a murmur the goad that spurs him on ; he is the king of the forest, where he has lived, almost wild, under a meridian sun ; a fiery blood boils in his veins, and excites him to anger. The hills and vales lately echoed with his lengthened bellowings. He is a proud conqueror accustomed to fight for the young heifer, to see every thing give way, and even men fly at his approach, or at the first sound of his formidable fury.

I saw pass one of the unruly animals that were to fight in the evening; he had been brought, it was said, from Salamanca; his dark rusty coat gave him an air of great ferocity ; six powerful men could with difficulty hold him, by ropes sufficiently long to prevent danger. A young heifer preceded to entice him into the Tamil, a dark, narrow enclosure furnished with trapdoors, in which the bulls are separately put till the time fixed for the fight. In this place their angry passions are still farther inflamed by different torments : on the upper part of the breast is placed a riband which denotes by its colour their origin, breed, and birth-place.

The bull-fights at Madrid are given in an amphitheatre open at the top ; the spectators are seated in rows and separated from the arena, which is in the centre, by a strong wooden fence. Boxes are constructed in the upper part of the edifice ; places in the shade pay double the price of those that are exposed to the heat of the sun. The spectacle opens with a sort of parade executed by the horse and foot combatants, all richly dressed according to the old Spanish costume. The Picadores fight on horseback, armed with lances; their horses are saddled in the Moorish fashion ; the lances are furnished with a sharp four-cornered head, made so as to wound the bull, without entering deep into his body. The Chulos fight on foot, armed with darts ; their arm of defence is a piece of red cloth which, attracting by its glare the bull’s eyes, enables the skilful to avoid his attacks, and baffle his fury by favour of this illusory buckler.

Flourishes are heard ; the barrier opens, and the bull appears. He has to avenge the many injuries received in his dark prison, and the craft by which he was entrapped ; with his hair on end and nostrils on fire, he stamps the ground, and threatens with his horns the spectators ; the solemn silence that instantly succeeds the thrilling sound of the trumpets, far from intimidating him, seems to increase his ardour. He surveys the arena, and, in three bounds, darts on the first picador that comes forward. The picador, firm in his seat, lowers his lance which he holds in rest, and, pulling round his horse, drives it into the bull’s broad breast, just as this fierce adversary inclines his head to make a dreadful blow. The shock is sometimes so violent that the lance shivers to pieces ; and the bull suddenly stopped in his course, is forced backward with pain from the wound. Should the picador’s horse be thrown, one of the foot combatants approaches, and draws the bull from his victim by a red cloak ; proud of his success, and attracted by the scarlet, the noble animal turns his rage against this new enemy, more formidable to appearance, and proportions his effort to the expected resistance: the chulo leaps aside, and leaves the cheated bull to roar and wreak his fury on the cloak left between his horns.

Every time the bull conquers a new enemy, he lifts his proud head, and casts a scornful and haughty look around him ; calmed, for a while, by victory, he seems to delight in the repeated plaudits of the multitude, and listens with pleasure to the shouts of Bravo, Bull ! Bravo, Bull ! that come from all parts of the amphitheatre.

The Picadores are succeeded by the Chulos or Banderilleros, who advance on foot. The bull attacked takes a fresh spring; he thinks, in one course, to free himself from this weak, light and nimble troop which unceasingly harasses him; but they everywhere open at his approach; the Banderilleros pass and repass ; adroitly plant their darts in the bull’s neck and breast, and, by their extreme agility, sport with his fury. I have seen one of these Chulos, too closely pursued to escape by leaping the fence, boldly place his foot between the bull’s horns and, tossed by the blow that was intended for him, fall unharmed some paces behind.

The troop of Banderilleros retires at a signal agreed upon, and the Matador appears, to finish the fight by the bull’s death ; he holds a sword in his right hand, and a flag in his left. After a low bow before the magistrates’ box, he turns round, advances with a firm and orderly step towards the bull, whose motions he several times studies, by presenting and withdrawing his flag. The spectators are suspended betwixt fear and hope ; all eyes are fixed on the point of the Matador’s sword, who must pay with his life his irresolution or want of skill, should his blow fail or his hand falter : at length he lifts his sword, and plunges it, between the shoulders, into the very heart of the bull, who, eager to strike the Matador, closes, staggers, falls, and measures the ground with his huge body. The four-footed hero, victor in many battles, raises, for the last time, his dying head, and in one lengthened roar, the blood gushing from his mouth and nostrils, he expires. Flourishes announced the bull’s entrance, flourishes are again heard at the death

Three mules harnessed abreast and richly caparisoned come from a door opposite that by which the combatants entered, gallop to the bull, and drag him away with cords fastened to his horns. The bull which comes next respires sometimes with frantic horror the still reeking blood scattered about the arena; and seized with the fury of revenge, he attacks indiscriminately all his foes at once. Sometimes too a timid bull wanders cowardly about the course, and returns to the outlet whence he came ; but that is irrevocably shut. The spectators consider him unworthy the honour of fighting with men ; the dogs are loudly called for, and the bull, assaulted by a pack, is soon thrown ; he is struck on the head with a sharp-pointed instrument made for the purpose, and dies amid barkings, shoutings and abuse.

This bloody tragedy, of which the devoted bull is the chief actor, presents the living picture of war as it was before the invention of gunpowder ; it offers to the mind its tumult, uncertainty and agitations, and the spectator, as in a field of battle, feels that electric emotion which is excited by the shedding of blood.

Directly the spectacle begins, an almost convulsive joy seizes the spectators of every age and of both sexes. In an instant the gravest countenances expand and become cheerful. The men, seated on benches, lean forward, and open their cloaks to be more appropriate to the action, as if they were to take part in it. They are seen to follow with their eyes and gestures every motion of the Picador or bull, and even encourage the animal by words, thinking thus to influence, by their own eagerness, the fate of the combat.


Anonymous said...

More non-sense about bullfighting, Mr Davies, another practise alien to the Galician heart (won't you set off to Madrid or Andalusia?!)

I advise your much cultured readership, though, the Galician bullfighters, called "forcados". I say Galician since the Portuguese are of Galician descent, that is, a Portuguese is a Galician free of the Castilian yoke (remember Aljubarrota and all that) that carved a country for themselves (with a lot of bloodshed, it must be admitted).

Check on youtube: "Thats What True Friends Are For...Portuguese Bullfight -Isto sim é camaradagem

There, valour without torturing the bull. Nothing to do either with hordes of grown men and raving hounds running after a little defenseless fox to tear him to rags, no matter how "national" their pathetic sport

Anonymous said...

just looked at it and what a load of bollocks. Portuguese - people who buy shoes and wear them by the laces on their neck.

Anthea said...

Anyone who has read my blog knows I am not a great fan of bullfighting, bull running and any other variation on the theme of putting yourself in harm's way in an enclosed space with a large bovine creature.

But, Cade, are you sure about this "sport" being totally alien to the galician heart. I may be mistaken but has there not recently been a fiesta of some kind in Pontevedra involving peñas and, judging by the posters that went up here in Vigo, havng something to do with bulls?

Of course, I may have got the wrong end of the stick. I am after all just "unha inglesa que fala moito mellor o castelan que o galego".

Anonymous said...

Unrealistic, apart from your xenophobia you are displaying very little intelligence. What forcados do takes much more guts that you ever had or will have, and that without killing or torturing the bull. Compare that with the gory Spanish bullfighting, or the English fox tearing. Not that the Spanish bullfighters are cowards (like the English fox-beaters), on the contrary, but the Spanish bullfighting has no place in a so-called civilized society. Torture of animals is just out of order.

Anonymous said...

Anthea, I don't see anything wrong with putting yourself in harms way, if that is your wish. What is unjustifiable is the torture of animals, even if you make an art out of it.

Bullfighting is as Galician as paella or flamenco. I am Galician and can cook paella, but that doesn't make me Valencian, nor makes paella a Galician dish, just because a few (or many) Galicians cook it. There is even a English bullfighter, so is bullfighting an English thing?

Those Galician bullfighting aficionados are adopting an alien (and in this case barbaric)cultural practise. Another one, much more widespread in Galiza, is the use of the Castilian (Spanish) language.

I (myself, personally), as a Galician, don't see any reason to adopt foreign practises or elements, like bullfight, fox-tearing, Spanish or English language, in my country.

Congratulations, though, for your speaking Galician, even if imperfectly. That's more than many ignorant a Galician

Anthea said...

Quite agree, Cade, bullfighting is just another form of torturing animals. We no longer accept cockfighting, dog fights (maybe still accepted in some S. American countries), badger baiting (an old English form of animal cruelty - dogs fighting badgers) or bear baiting. Even some trained animal acts in circuses are banned. Eventually, tauromaquia will go the same way.

Anonymous said...

Cadey boy - It doesn't take much intelligence to read the crap you put out and I see you are at my level of intelligence so you better get yourself some education and get out of the gutter where you are crawling. Stop torturing me with your drivel! I only have one arm but I can type just like you do and stop using dumb words like xenophobia because it makes you sound like a real toff. Do you live in a trailer park or are you number one on your council estate?

Midnight Golfer said...

It's okay, there's nothing wrong with living in a trailer. Some of the true fiscal geniuses I've known have used the years they lived in trailers, in order to save and be able to own their own acreage, free and clear, and then went on to have us build truly mansion-like homes for them, upon selling the trailer, or giving it to their children, as soon as they were old enough to start the cycle over.

Idiots like my own self, however, have continued to rent and rent, and will never, I'm afraid, see any benefit, except for this year when property values didn't rise as much as desired.

Anonymous said...

unrealistic, the only drivel here is the one coming from your shameless ignorance. It's very simple: any person who writes things like "the Portuguese buy shoes and wear them by the laces on their neck" must have very little intelligence, even if it is a one-armed moron like you.

Unfortunately, you poor retard, intelligence is something that you can't buy nor inherit, so I advise you to stop reading my comments, since they are way beyond your much limited comprehension.

Anonymous said...

cade do you look in a mirror and dictate to yourself while sending your rubbish to this blog? You seem to enjoy talking down to retarded people so what do you do about the parrot droppings on your left shoulder?

Anonymous said...

unrealistic, I don't enjoy talking to retards like you, I'm just trying to discourage you from reading my comments, for your own good. You should know your own limits, otherwise someone is going to remind you

Anonymous said...

cade getting yourself into a flap now are you or maybe you are going to mummy sulking? That naughty man is upsetting me! I read what I like moron and by the way my name's Cliff so drop over sometime.

Anonymous said...

oh, I nearly forget that behind every moron there's always a real person, with a name and all!

However, I am feeling a strange temptation to tell you how little I care about what your name is or is not, and how irrelevant it is that fact for this discussion ...

Anyway, nice to meet you, Cliff, we'll keep in touch. Perhaps one day you'll deign to explain (even at your very rudimentary level)what interest has my country in your life. I bet that that one has got to be a real "cracker"!

Anonymous said...

cade last week I went to Foyles to check out a book on Portuguese Galego but they only had a book on American Galego and at 36 quid I thought it was a bit much so I bought a book for a fiver called teach yourself Biblical Hebrew. While I was there I met a group of Galegos and they were all short and talked with squeaky voices just like that guy Franco. I think that sums up what we should know about Galegos. Looking at some of the pictures on this site it must be a real dump.

Anonymous said...

all right, Cliff, not only are you a moron, but on top of that a conceited and idiot racist:

"a group of Galegos and they were all short and talked with squeaky voices just like that guy Franco."

"I think that sums up what we should know about Galegos"

Cliff mate, why don't you illuminate us with all that we should know about the Arian race, or any equally worthy people or culture, so that those short and squeaky Franco-like people who live in a "real dump" or even those who "buy shoes and wear them by the laces on their neck" can have something to really look up to?

Dear dear, how long since your last visit to your shrink? Aren't you taking the medication, or is it just something congenital?

Anonymous said...

well cadey boy it takes one to know one doesn't it. You are on familiar ground so you know what it is all about having mental problems. I wonder if you take the same medicine as the guy next door to me who goes to his shrink every Friday. I have never met a racist before but you fit the picture for me. I guess you find it hard to deal with normal people so you have to insult everyone you encounter. I bet the neighbours give you a wide berth. Looking back at all your remarks I see you can't help yourself insulting people and then trying to be the nice guy in the next one. Keep it coming baby as you are entertaining the world here.

Anonymous said...

Cliff, oh Cliff, when I call you a moron, an idiot, a racist ... I am not insulting you, just describing you. Look, this is the stuff you write:

"Portuguese - people who buy shoes and wear them by the laces on their neck."

"I met a group of Galegos and they were all short and talked with squeaky voices just like that guy Franco. I think that sums up what we should know about Galegos. Looking at some of the pictures on this site it must be a real dump."

You know, this is a blog of and for people who love the country by the name (in Spanish) of Galicia so, what the heck are you doing here?!

To meet a racist, Cliff, look no further, you just have to look at the mirror, no matter how umpleasant it may be.

Hala, a ranhá-la por aí, palerma da cona!

Eamon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

miguelinho meu paddy, how come you come here to censure me and say nothing to the Galicianphobe Cliff (unrealistic)? Aren't you going to say a single thing to the guy who so much despise your (surely hospitable) host?