We’ve seen many a corrida de toros or bullfight since our first trip to Mexico more than 15 years ago. We’ve always been conflicted about it. We love animals but we can also appreciate the cultural significance of the corrida.
What we dislike immensely, however, is that the fights are never ‘fair’ and the outcome for the bull is 99.9% certain. Sometimes the bull’s life is spared if it has fought ‘bravely’ — a rather strange notion given that the odds are stacked against the bull even before facing the matador. But a skilful matador can make a bullfight appear more graceful than gory while conversely a bullfight without skill is a sickening spectacle.
Which brings us to San Miguel de Allende… While we were in town, a bullfighting festival had just begun and there was a classic Sunday afternoon corrida on. There are few things more ‘local’ to do in Mexico — it’s like going to the football in other places — so we went along to soak up the atmosphere. Bullfighting in San Miguel de Allende is something different.
We also wanted to see how many locals would be there (quite a few), how many expats and tourists (a handful), and what the corrida would be like in a town where Arthur Murray dance classes are probably more discussed than the moves of an up-and-coming bullfighter.
But there were no up-and-coming bullfighters. In fact, in Mexico the bullfighting tradition is losing fans because there are no new stars that have grabbed people’s attention.
Here in San Miguel, backed by a burning sun and a band so woeful I’m hoping they were terribly drunk and had me wishing I was, a motley assortment of bullfighters faced some tiny bulls. On this occasion it was the bullfighters who proved themselves woefully inadequate for the task.
Even with an overzealous picador (the invariably fat guy on the frightened, blindfolded horse that weakens the bull by lancing it in the neck) these guys more often than not ended up on their backs. Sometimes on the backs of the bulls after the bull nonchalantly tossed them, but always finally on the ground where the assistance of the banderilleros and other bullfighters had to be called to stop a well-deserved goring.
The bulls, left to their own devices, would have sent more than just the ‘amateur bullfighter’ to the hospital. An elderly, apparently long-time gringo in a fabulous suit proved why ‘amateur’ and ‘bullfighter’ are two words that should never reside in the one sentence, let alone a bullring.
When a bullfighter puts on a brave and skilful performance (and we’ve seen these in the bullrings of Madrid and San Sebastian), they are often granted an ear of the bull after it is finally dispatched. On this afternoon, the bulls should have been granted the ears of the amateur butchers masquerading as bullfighters.
The bulls should also have been sent home to become stud bulls, regaling bovine beauties with wildly accurate stories of the day they turned the tables on their tormentors. After all, the bulls were the only ones with any cojones in the ring.