Bullfighting in Spain does seems to be diminishing. Many will be applauding this but it does mean that another tradition may well come to an end. However in Andalusia it´s still a very popular sport, with around 70 bullrings still being used. The most important of these is the Real Maestranza in Seville which holds 10,000 spectators, Ronda boasts the very first bullring in the whole of Spain and Mijas Pueblo is the only oval.
As you´ll see from the map opposite, the southern area of Spain, and in particular Andalusia, is still very true to it´s roots when talking about bullfighting. There are large farms in the area specialising in the breeding of bulls specifically for use in the bull ring. Each farm trying to raise a different type of character within the bulls so as to differentiate themselves from other farm stocks.
Bulls are very intelligent animals and of course very powerful. They are only ever used once in the ring, as it´s thought they´d be far too dangerous against the matadors with power and knowledge.
The Traje de Luces, or suit of lights, is the elaborately decorated suit worn by matadors. Most suits are made of satin and decorated in gold with the most popular colours being pink, green, black and red. You won´t normally see them wearing yellow however, as this is said to be an unlucky colour and they are very superstitious.
The suit is worn with a white shirt, narrow black tie, coloured sash knotted around the waist, pink knee-high stockings, black ballet-style shoes and a two cornered hat called an Astrakhan. When a young novice becomes a fully trained matador they will normally grow their hair long and wear it in a pig tail, clipped to the back of their heads. This is then only cut off when the matador retires.
Plaza de Toros
General term - Person who fights bulls
Person on foot who inserts the barbs
Lancer on horseback
Supporters of bullfighting say that it´s an important tradition and art form, with well practised set moves with both cape and sword. Much like a play it follows strict stages, with the bull and the matador playing the lead roles. However, critics maintain that it´s a cruel blood sport causing pain and suffering to both the bulls and horses in the ring and should have no place in society today.
Which ever side you take, you will always be challenged by people with the opposite view making for some lively conversations. There is a form of non-lethal bullfighting practised in some countries around the world, including Portugal, but as yet Spain hasn´t looked to change or embrace it and perhaps they never will.