It’s a while since I’ve been to a bullfight, Pamplona in 2009 I think, and with it being so early in the year I didn’t expect to be going to one on this trip. The Spanish bullfighting season runs mainly from April to September, although you do get the odd event taking place outside of these months, usually as part of a local festival.
I’d seen a couple of posters though as we’d been wandering around Granada and Seville, advertising corridas in small towns nearby and I did start to wonder if we could fit one in. When we decided just to see the one football game on the Sunday, it meant that we had sufficient time to go to the corrida in Osuna. It wasn’t something that Jen thought that she would particularly enjoy, but she was curious enough to come along anyway.
We’d travelled through Osuna a few days earlier on the way from Granada to Seville and had stopped for lunch there. We hadn’t noticed a bull ring though. That journey had been pretty impressive as we’d detoured up into the Sierra Nevada mountains. There hadn’t really been time to squeeze a hike into this trip so we’d cheated a bit and drove to within a few hundred metres of the top and had a look around.
There are plenty of walking trails in the area and it’s somewhere that I’d like to get back to before long. We didn’t see any wolves or lynx, but there were a few black squirrels about.
Whilst we’d been staying in Granada, we’d seen most of the sights including the Alhambra. As with the Alcazar in Seville, it was the gardens rather than the palaces that I was impressed with. The views across Granada from the towers were pretty good as well.
We’d also popped into the bullring whilst in Granada. There wasn’t a corrida taking place but for four euros, I think, we were allowed to have a wander around in the ring by ourselves and take a look behind the scenes. I was surprised at the medical rooms, considering that live-saving surgery may have to take place in them. They looked as if they hadn’t been updated since the 1930’s. I’d like to think that if, for whatever reason, I ever ended up with an 8“ horn stuck up my ring-piece, the medical equipment available would be a little bit more up-to-date.
Of course I couldn’t resist posing for a photograph in the ring.
We got to Osuna mid-afternoon on the Sunday and it didn’t take long to find the Plaza de Toros. It’s relatively small, about a third of the size of the arena that I’d posed in whilst in Granada and with a capacity of just over five thousand. They’ve been holding bullfights there since 1905 but I don’t think that they host more than a couple of corridas a year these days and I’d be surprised if they get the higher quality matadors or bulls.
We bought free-seating tickets for twenty euros each and then cleared off for some lunch. The first few places that we tried were full and we eventually got a table outside of a restaurant ten minutes walk or so from the bullring. It seemed as if the whole town had decided to eat out for lunch and judging from the way that any newcomers were greeted, that they all knew each other.
We returned to the bullring with plenty of time to spare before the five o’clock start. Whilst I wasn’t expecting a capacity crowd, I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to get there in sufficient time to select our seats before it started to fill up. We hired cushions from a woman outside for three euros a go, which seemed expensive. Maybe, we had actually bought them.
We selected seats on the back row, the ninth. It was such a small ring that the view would be fine from there. It was more important to make sure that we had seats in the sun as the temperature was starting to drop. By the time the matadors made their entrance, two thirds of the seats were still empty. Perhaps a small-town corrida in February isn’t much of a draw these days.
And so to the action. In the first fight local matador Ángel Luis Carmona was taking on what I thought was quite a poor bull. It struggled to keep his feet and went down easier than Gareth Bale.
The crowd, possibly with a sizeable number of Senor Carmona’s friends and family amongst it, got him one ear by refusing to take no for an answer from the president.
The second matador was Alejandro Enríquez. He had the benefit of a better bull, although I thought that it was weakened too much by the picador who was digging around in its neck muscles with his lance like someone intent upon raking out a particularly stubborn bogie from deep in a nostril.
It occurred to me during this fight, just how much of a boon Lycra must be to ageing bullfighters. Flexible and forgiving, although with not much protection if you happen to be thrown six feet into the air. Enriquez put on a good show and finished with a quick kill. The ear was again awarded grudgingly by the president but was more deserved than in the opening bout.
The next fight featured a Novillero, Javier Ortiz. A Novillero is someone who hasn’t qualified as a proper bullfighter yet and is restricted to fighting bulls below four years of age. Today was also the first time that he had taken part in a proper corrida with horses. The boy done well, as they say, putting up the best performance of the three fighters to date. His first attempt at the kill failed but he quickly followed up with his second go. The President was given a bit of stick for only awarding him the one ear.
Fight four featured Ángel Luis Carmona taking on the day’s most aggressive bull so far. He looked to me as if he must go through a can of hairspray each fight (Carmona, not the bull), although I suppose that it’s not the sort of job where you can really risk getting your fringe in your eyes.
The fight was disrupted by a bloke in the crowd standing up and singing. Everyone stopped to listen including the matador and the bull. After the crowd had given the singer a round of applause the action restarted. Maybe the song affected Carmona’s concentration as a few moments later he was knocked to the floor. The bull failed to follow it up though allowing itself to be distracted by the assistants. Schoolboy errors from both participants if you ask me.
Carmona failed to get his sword in cleanly at the first time of asking, but the bull decided it had had enough anyway and just dropped to the floor a moment later denying him a second go. His Number Two finished it off quickly with that little stabber knife that they carry. There were no shouts for an ear from the crowd this time.
Next it was Alejandro Enríquez again, in his natty red and gold suit. The bull was very aggressive against the horse but it was a bad kill, culminating in the assistant having to stab away repeatedly at the back of the bull’s head like a bloke twatting pop-up frogs at a fairground. There was plenty of booing from the crowd followed by silence.
We didn’t stay for the sixth and final bull. It was getting cold and there was wine to be drunk back in Seville. It was Jen’s first time at a bullfight and I suspect that it might very well be her last. It’s an event that is so much better if you are watching it in one of the main venues, completely full and with the best bulls and matadors. I view bullfighting in a similar way that I do football though. If there’s a low-level corrida taking place in a small venue, I rather be there than not, but I know that the chances of it being a top-quality spectacle are slim. That’s it for this update. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the next one.