Spanish for the ‘running of the bulls’, a more accurate term than the English ‘bullfighting’, as in the corrida there is no equal contest between fighter and bull; this raises the definitional question, in the absence of the dynamic of the contest, of the extent to which the practice can be described as a sport. The corrida flourished most, and has continued to exist, in Spain, with variations of the form in Portugal, parts of south-west France, and some regions and countries of Central and South America. In the French variant, the bull is not killed and the aim is to remove a kind of rosette harnessed to the bull's horns. Nevertheless, in the classic Spanish form, it is more than a mere display, in that the human protagonist whose role it is to kill the bull (the matador) is often injured or gored, sometimes killed. The plaza de toros (bull ring) has been a potent symbol of Hispanic public culture for centuries. The specialist language of the techniques, performance, costumes, and equipment of the corrida led writer Ernest Hemingway to produce a 64-page ‘explanatory glossary of certain words, terms and phrases used in bullfighting’ (Death in the Afternoon, 1932). Hemingway was particularly interested in the often neglected victims of the doomed bull, the horses—‘the death of the horse tends to be comic while that of the bull is tragic’—and wove a moral narrative around the ‘well-ordered…ritual’ of the event.
Another US writer, Norman Mailer, was also attracted to the event (The Bullfight—A Photographic Narrative with Text, 1967), finding in ‘the mystery of the form…the record of a war’. Matadors for whom Mailer had little initial respect or admiration nevertheless illuminated ‘the paradox that courage can be found in men whose conflict is caught between their ambition and their cowardice’. In the case of both Hemingway and Mailer, the corrida was as much about their search for the essence of themselves—and the nature of manhood—as the inherent artistic or sporting merits of the practice. Mailer romanticizes the fight as an elemental way of a man showing ‘what he was intended to be…in his greatest moment’, rather than being judged on what he is every day:It is a romantic, self-pitying, impractical approach to the twentieth century's demands for predictable ethics, high production, dependability of function, and categorization of impulse, but it is the Latin approach. Their allegiance is to the genius of the blood. So they judge a man by what he is at his best.
It is a romantic, self-pitying, impractical approach to the twentieth century's demands for predictable ethics, high production, dependability of function, and categorization of impulse, but it is the Latin approach. Their allegiance is to the genius of the blood. So they judge a man by what he is at his best.
Subjects: Sport and Leisure.