I imagine that when one is the child of any parent involved in something that requires spectators (think; athletes, actors, rodeo clowns, what have you) you grow up attending a lot of those spectator events.
Holy mother of god, I am betting that they attend a ton of those said events. But in a very integral way… you are on the field, on the set, in the barrel.
My life was spent much like this.
I look bored. Dear lord, I probably was… at the point the picture was taken anyway.
See, while I grew up watching my father bullfight, it was so much a part of our lives (at least until my brother was almost killed and my mom stopped going – more below) that I think I thought of it as if all kids my age were forced to attend these things.
Not all bullfights were boring though, the one in the picture of me above was actually pretty heart-stopping. All of us kids at the bullfights, played while the bulls were being fought, it was pretty normal in that respect. This day, however, would prove to be somewhat different. My brother would fall in to the bull-ring.
See, my mother, brother ,and I would always sit at the barrera. Those are the front row seats… which are right at the callejon or that alley way in between the two red walls in the ring (in the picture below), it goes all the way around allowing for the people working the bullfight to move to different places to help the men that are actually inside the ring.
My brother happened to fall in to the callejon just as the bull had jumped into it. Picture something like this, but with a real chubby 4-year-old running in front of the bull.
It was heart wrenching. We ran to the barrera, watching my brother run as fast as he could from the bull that was not to far behind him. Other people seated around the ring reaching in trying to grab him and pull him to safety. Almost like they were doing a “wave” at a stadium, but more life-threatening… screams from women, men shouting directions at each other… it was tense and full of that kind of energy. The men in the ring frantically running around the inside of the ring trying to figure out how to get the bull out and back in to the center sand, once they realized what else was going on. I can recall that experience so vividly, that my hands still shake and I get choked up as I type about it.
A gray-haired gentleman and his son (who must have been in his thirties) managed to catch my brother as I can recall watching as one of them held his chubby little arm and the other was holding on to his chubby little leg, raising him high and back into the stands.
I think my parents marriage might have really ended that day.
I didn’t come to hate bullfights, but I didn’t love them either. It was what my father did, and where I would get to hang out with all the kids of his friends… and eat, seriously, in Ecuador bullfight food is awesome… I smell an empanada de morocho and I can be right back at those memories.
My better memories of being at them involves hanging out with him before the big game/performance. It is a more tense experience in some ways, a lot of decisions need to be made and a lot of things need to be observed. Essentially, you look at the bulls and often have a lottery of sorts to see who would draw which bull. Then there would be talk about who gets to go first (seniority – often based on first kill or first fight). It is still my favorite thing to experience. After this, and in cases where it is just a tienta and no one should get hurt in a matter that requires major hospitalization, I like helping my dad out, passing him his swords and capes from the callejon, talking about the strengths and weakness the calf (no bulls here) may have.
Growing up though, during the actual bullfighting, eating and playing were the best part… of course, when my dad was in the ring I would often sit and watch.
I remember a lot of playing and a lot of eating. It infiltrated my weekends as well as my weeks… The picture above is of my son… somehow wrangled into helping my dad practice, there was always a lot of practice.
I still remember a lot of bullfights, but not anywhere near the barrera… after that day, anyway.
But none the less, it was how I grew up.
See, my father loves bullfighting. A lot. and by a lot, I seriously mean A LOT. He has been doing this since he was little, there are pictures of him as a pre-teen making his little brothers pretend to be a bull while he mimics moving the cape.
The thing is though, that between all the bullfights and the ranch we had where we raised fighting bulls… I managed to pick something of what he loves up.
I know a good fight when I see one, and while I can’t recite all the names of the passes, when they are mentioned to me, I have a pretty clear idea what they are talking about. The same goes for the bull descriptions, bull afflictions, and other such terminology employed by those who live and breathe this stuff.
And I don’t really hate it… I mean, I get a huge gut wrench when I see the bull killed and often find myself praying for the bulls quick demise and I can’t even begin to describe what happens to me when I am watching my father bullfight (and I am not as scared for my dad’s safety as I am concerned about his doing well).
My dad insists I have the “gusano”.
I am not as convinced. Sometimes, talking about bullfights gives me a serious headache… trying to explain subtle nuances to those who are not in the know, trying not to get spit on by those who abhor it, trying to let those who detest it get their anger out without being insulted, trying to catch the key pieces when I am around those who know far more than I… it is enough to literally give me heartburn.
I just can’t forsake something I grew up so intimately with. That in order to more fully understand I have tried to actually do something so I would get what it was about, to put the terminology and subtleties I understand into practice.
I am just at that point where I have given in and said, yes… this scary as shit thing that on occasion involves killing something is something I grew up with and I don’t think I would have it any other way… the good and the bad that it brought in to my life.
I have been in a ring with an itty bitty that managed to hurt me pretty darn bad (you don’t kill the itty bitty’s, you are actually there for other reasons).
Anyway, it is enough a part of my life that I had an essay accepted (it appears right after one by my father) for inclusion in this book: Olé!: Capturing the Passion of Bullfighters and Aficionados
Go ahead, click on the link. It will take you to the amazon link. It is good, you should buy it!
And then you can visit the book on Facebook, for awesome updates (like the book awards it has received) by clicking HERE
You can totally cheat all the rest of the totally amazing authors by not reading the whole thing, as it was intended, and just read some of my essay HERE
And you can read about the experience a friend of mine had at the same time I last got in the ring with my dad HERE
No still-photos seem to exist of me fighting, just video… sigh. I am going to say that everyone was too taken by my marked grace to think to even pick up a camera and take a shot.
Now, off to get me some antacid.