This summer I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful country of Spain with my granddaughter, grandson, daughter and son. On past vacations, observing the cultures of other countries has been an amazing learning experience. And so it was, when we attended a Bullfight in Seville (the Andalusian capital)! I admit I had mixed emotions about witnessing the killing of bulls, but when the opportunity presented itself, I knew I had to see first hand what this “sport” means to the people of Spain.

We arrived early at the Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Sevilla, which has a 12,000 seat capacity, and we were immediately transformed into another “world!” The atmosphere was exuberant with people, including families, awaiting the arrival of the toreros (the bullfighters). One could grab a “pre-bullfight beer” at one of many nearby bars and become immersed in the crowds about 20 minutes before the bullfight. Many were autograph-seekers, journalists, and local fans, discussing the evening’s event while awaiting the arrival of the toreros.

Upon entering the bull ring, we found our seats which were numbered on a concrete bench. I immediately was in awe of the spectacle of the local fans and their excitement of what’s to come. Okay, here comes the pageantry… A trumpet sounded and the event began. There was music and cheering as the matadors, with their exquisite attire, along with riders on decorated horses paraded around the arena. At first, the formality of the bullfight was lost on us, but we quickly were consumed with this amazing and colorful display of an important part of Seville’s culture.

My family and I learned some specifics about the formality of the evening. Over the course of the three-hour spectacle, three toreros perform in the rink with each responsible for killing two bulls. The bullfight is further divided into three separate stages, each lasting about twenty minutes. The first, the picador, happens when the toreros use their pink capes to check out the robustness of the bulls. The second part, called the banderillas, is a sad time for those who are empathic to this action. Three pairs of zagged sticks are placed in the bull’s hide close to its shoulder. Again, the expressive dance continues between the torero and the bull and, if it is praiseworthy, the music will begin to play. For the safely of the matador, his assistants are placed in strategic exits around the ring, ready to jump in and dissuade the bull if necessary.

The final portion, called the faena, is a combination of the bullfighter’s expertise, including quick passes with his cape, and the bull’s agility. There is a rule this final portion cannot go over ten minutes, less the trumpet sounds as a reminder.

There is more fanfare as the audience makes a judgment on the evening’s bullfights. As a reward to a torero who has performed well, the fans wave white handkerchiefs. This gesture means requesting the president to offer the torero one of the bull’s ear, and if the faena has been a really great success, two bull’s ears will be offered to him.

Bullfighting is looked upon as controversial in many parts of the world but to the people of Seville and other parts of Spain, this culture dates back to the Roman times. On July 11, 2019, I learned to understand the pageantry, emotions, and all-encompassing love the people of Sevilla have for bullfighting. This tradition is a part of the Sevillano culture that brings the Spanish people together to celebrate.

– Ellie Perrier (Mount Holyoke College, ’07; Retired Administrative Assistant ,)