Today in History, a regular feature in the Seattle Times, began Tuesday with:
“1947: Legendary bull fighter Manolete died after being gored during a fight in Linares, Spain; he was 30.”
Bullfighting, ‘la fiesta brava’ ; the centuries old cultural icon of Spain is one of those ‘love it or hate it’ topics these days among tourists and locals alike. But still it is interesting that 65 years later, the death of Spain’s famed young matador, Manuel Laureano Rodrigues Sanchez, -- better known as Manolete* – is still worthy of note on an international scale.
Although we spent several weeks in Spain last year, we didn’t attend a bullfight; not as a political statement, but out of a desire not to watch an animal – or perhaps human - be killed.
But that isn’t to say we weren’t fascinated by the importance of the bullfight to this country’s culture and history. After all, the first recorded bullfight in Spain was in 711 AD at the crowning of King Alfonso VIII.
Our stay in Madrid was during its May Fiesta de San Isidro. A highlight of the many celebrations the fiesta encompasses are the bullfights in its Plaza de Toros Monumental de Las Ventas – one of the largest bullfight rings in the world.
Bullfights, or corridas, take place almost daily during the festival and many were televised for the enjoyment of the masses, much like football and baseball games in the United States and soccer (futbol) in Europe.
(Look closely at the two photos above and you’ll see I photographed a television screen.)
I photographed this sign in Madrid promoting toreras (female bullfighters) because I thought it was something new. Silly me, they’ve been around for centuries -- yes, centuries -- I’ve since learned. Even the famed Manolete shared billing with a female during a 1930’s bullfight according to one internet account.
In Seville we joined a tour group visit of the famed Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza (Paseo de Cristobal Colon 12, www.realmaestranza.com) Tickets for the tours can be purchased at the box office there.
This 14,000 seat edifice is one of the largest in Spain and hosts fights every Sunday from Easter Sunday to early October.
Our multi-lingual tour guide explained the history and the procedural aspects of bullfighting to the handful of people on the tour. The tour concluded with a stop in the on-site bullfighting museum.
The museum is a walk through the corridos history– walls filled with paintings, sculptures as pictured above, the outfits and equipment worn by some of the more famous bull fighters as well as a tribute to the more famous bulls as well.
We spotted one of the most clever pieces of street art we’ve seen on our travels while in Madrid. It seemed the perfect photo to end this Travel Photo Thursday post:
A couple of notes about bullfighting in Spain:
Barcelona’s leaders voted to end that city’s 600 year tradition of bullfights; its last bullfight was held in September 2011. The first recorded bullfight there was in 1387.
*Manolete, was considered by some to be Spain’s greatest bullfighter. A book by Barnaby Conrad, “The Death of Manolete” has just been republished. Conrad also produced a You Tube video called The Day Manolete Was Killed.
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