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Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-12-26 18:32:23 | Benito Juarez, The Federal District, Mexico
Keywords: show, sport
It's one of the things I did despite the fact I knew ahead of time I wouldn't like it... but I did it to satisfy my curiosity and understand the phenomenon. I'm not a fan of any form of exploitation or of abuse towards humans or animals. I had seen a Mexican corrida on TV, but I needed to witness it live to fully understand it and see the people's reaction to the event. I didn't enjoy my time there but I enjoy the knowledge I gain from it.

I did go to a corrida because it's part of the Mexican popular culture (like Lucha Libre), and I was curious to see the kind of crowd going there and their reactions. First, the ticket is much more expensive than for the Lucha Libre, which gives already an indication on the fans. The tickets are priced depending on the row of the seat (not just the section) and depending if it's on the sunny or shade side of the arena, for a total of 84 different prices! I also learned the Plaza Mexico where the corrida takes place is in a much richer neighbourhood than the Arena Mexico holding the Lucha Libre events.

The crowd being richer also reflects on the nature and price of the souvenirs and snack offerings. Before and after the event, there are street vendors proposing all kinds of stuff, but the major items are cowboy hats and cigars. In the stadium, the snack offering is certainly different (and more expensive) than the one at Lucha Libre, even the same items are much more expensive. But you'll find at the corrida offerings like cigars, cowboy hats and western jackets as well as different snacks like meringues, desserts, eggs, esquites, etc. Many people in the crowd also brought their bota bag (usually adorned with a corrida image) carrying wine.

Like many upper class social gatherings, the corrida is an occasion to be seen... so people do dress up to go to the corrida. Mature men use the occasion to show off their trophy wife, costumed kid, etc. It's a very artificial environment, just like the show down in the pit.

Fans will tell you that a corrida is a confrontation between men and the animals, showing the supremacy of the one with only two legs. But for it to be a confrontation, chances would have to be somewhat equal. It is not. The whole pretext is to slaughter a bull after what could be considered torture.

First, the bull is released form the bullpen and enters the arena. He then runs all over the place because he's excited and attracted by 5 or 6 men who quickly run behind protection walls as soon as the bull is within 5 metres from them. Usually the toreador is one of those men, but it's hard to say at first who's the toreador and who are simply the pawns (his assistants) because they're all dressed of different colours. After an a certain time (ranging from 1 minute to about 10, apparently based on the signs read on the bull behaviour by the toreador), come into the arena two picadors mounted on padded horses. The toreador leads the bull to one of the picador, usually the one on the most expensive side of the arena. The picador then uses a long pole at the end of which there's a metal knife basically to injure the bull in the neck. The knife cannot penetrate deeply in the skin because of a guard, but it's often moved all around (intentionally or just by the bull movements) to cause a maximum injury... but that's enough to generate blood and injure the bull's neck muscles so he has to lower his head. That's also a strength confrontation between the bull and the horses, to fatigue the bull.

Then comes the bandarillas part... where one one the pawns insert by pairs 4 to 8 banderillas in the neck muscular mass of the bull, to complete the work started by the picador. The cutting part of the banderilla is about 4 cm long, just enough to really penetrate the muscles and cause more pain as the bull runs since the long exterior part of the banderilla then moves in all directions. Not all the pawns are of same skills... and sometimes they can't stick the banderillas properly.

Finally, there's the death part. After tiring the bull even more, the toreador does his show... taunting a now confused, injured and greatly diminished animal. That's where the toreador makes his boldest moves mocking the bull. When the bull is no longer catching the bite and is no longer an occasion for the toreador to show his 'bravery', then it's of no use... and begins the final act to kill the bull. The toreador then taunts the bull pointing a big sword to him... and tries to insert the sword in his neck above his head. Most of the time, he fails and causes only more injuries to the bull... until he has to try again and again.

But even when the sword is inserted (at least half way), the bull continues to be standing and walking. The pawns then come to the help of the toreador by making the bull run in every direction until he falls down. The toreador then claims victory and expects the applause of the crowd. The bull isn't dead yet... it's another pawn who kills the bull using a knife he inserts in the bull's head... but again, that often requires multiple attempts. The corpse of the bull is pulled away using horses.

Many see in the various phases of the corrida a demonstration of courage by the men in the arena. There's some courage, yes, but most of it is technique... and since everything is done to confuse and tire the animal, it's far from being a real challenge. At the beginning, then the bull is still in shape, they are up to 6 to make the bull run in all directions... and they're never far away from the protection of the wall. It would be a more valuable challenge if it was only the toreador vs the bull all the time (with some help in case he's in trouble of course). For me, it's just a demonstration of animal cruelty for the idealization of a an artificial hero, to the image of the people in the audience.

I knew I wouldn't like it... but I went anyway, for the sake of research and understanding another part of the Mexican culture. Yes, it was expensive (over all with ticket and snacks on the site, about 500 pesos US$38.50), but it was an experience of many hours with an insight in the mind of the Mexicans. I don't know if it's because of the date (weekend before Christmas), the end of the corrida season or a general low interest in the event but the arena was almost empty with only about 10% of the seats occupied.


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