Tag Archives: bullfighting

ignoring my limits

​In our society, the women who break down barriers are those who ignore limits.
~ Arnold Schwarzenegger​
I would hope that women get exposed, personally, to women who break down barriers. Actually, I hope that men get exposed to women who break barriers too, because this is still something that needs to happen.  I am lucky, in 1980 my cousin was the second best archer in the world. Amazon comparisons aside, this was HUGE. Women have been slinging arrows for eons, but to get to a level where you are second best… in the world… wow, she is pretty impressive in this respect (and many others).  How wonderful is it that we live in a world where we see more women breaking barriers and becoming awesome at what they do.

This took a long time to come for me. Born in an era that was just starting to feel out the women’s rights movement.  Add to that the fact that I was born and raised in countries that have very “traditional” roles for women. So, breaking barriers was not something I even thought about until, that is, I moved to the United States. Before that, I think my most adventurous aspiration was to be a flamenco dancer.

Now, please know that I do not mean to demean flamenco dancers by that statement.  There is a ton of back story to that. My father bullfights. I spent the first ten years of my life either watching him bullfight or helping out at our ranch that raised fighting bulls. Bullfighting is the glue that hold my relationship together with my father. I live in a world where I both hate it and love it. My more intimate knowledge about it provides for this. Like many things in life, it is both beautiful and brutal.

My father is well-respected among bullfighting circles around the world.  I went to visit a friend of his when I was an adult and he told me how he met my dad. My dad had been trying to get a chance to bullfight right after we had moved from Spain to Ecuador, but it is not something one can just go to the park and find a pick-up game.  So this friend of my fathers recalls that he ans his friends kept getting these calls about this silly American that wanted to join them in a bullring. After several months they realized that they were not going to get rid of his persistence so they had him come along.  At this point in the conversation, my father’s friend looks me in the eyes and tell how he and all his friends saw my dad get in the ring and were stunned by how good a bullfighter my father was.  He is still good. Anyway, I grew up with enough privilege that I really believed that I would end up a mother of many children with a wealthy enough husband and live in a country other than the USA. Needless to say that did not happen.

I recall moving to the US just at the start of the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment. Which was the same time that my cousin was an Olympic archer, my aunt had won Emmy’s and was becoming an artist. There was something empowering and horribly frightening about this. So, at this point in my life, my tweens and early teens, I realized I could be anything I wanted to be if I wanted it hard enough.
So, I hung on to my dream of having lots of children (I have always wanted six, for what it is worth) but now I could be that and do anything. In high school I was stunned when a friend stopped me after me describing my future self and said that it was great I had these ideas about what I would do with my children, but she had noticed that I never mentioned their father or a husband. I am sure that my mother had to work so very hard and had to fight to provide for my brother and I after my father took off with another  woman and left us high and dry was the impetus for this visioning I was doing.
So, I chased dreams.
It wasn’t until I was thirty that I was able to revisit my father and his bullfighting passion. I was back in the US and newly married and he invited me to join him for a special convention in Texas.  Through a random series of events I was able to share a room with a female bullfighter. I had never even really imagined this. I was aware of women like  Conchita Cintrón and Bette Ford, but hadn’t really thought about it in terms of how many crazy walls they had to tear down.  To put this in perceptive, in 1998 I attended the bullfights in Ecuador and on the last day I asked the man who was our former veterinarian if I could join him in the callejon (the inner ring, where the bullfighters and their assistants hang out in a bull ring). His reply was to tell me that I could because that the ban on women being there had been lifted a few years ago… which makes the ban on women in the inner circle to have been lifted around 1997!!!
So, here I was in a room with a woman bullfighter by the name of Raquel Martinez. A petite and beautiful blond woman. I felt like her opposite in everything, I was tall to her short, brunette to her blond, squishy to her toned, make up less to her flawless make-up. I was in awe. Never in my growing up as my father’s daughter had I ever considered this, and now in the presence of a woman bullfighter I was in awe. She was kind, gracious, gentle… had a great sense of humor, she was both strong and vulnerable. It was an amazing time. She was the first woman I ever asked for make-up advice. We talked about the men we had loved, and how crazy it was to try to be a woman bullfighter. I have not seen her since that time, but she has remained on of my treasured experiences. She was part of a group of women who were tearing down walls, and she was amazing.
For the record, I do not want to be a bullfighter… I would much rather dance the flamenco.
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TEDx yzpdqbil*

I have to admit, I am currently a little obsessed with TED talks.

It all started with this one talk – I think I saw it sometime in the fall of 2008;

I was floored, and moved, and thought “what a great way to put things out there”.

And since this was new I kind of waited to see what it would bring. I made my mother watch it. I sent it to my friends, and have fondly referred to the talk and my reaction to it ever since.

I was not a Ted-aholic, though. I would only reach out to Ted videos when I referred to them.

But something changed.

As I was preparing to host a movie screening with panel discussion, and I could not find anyone willing to serve as master of ceremonies, I realized that the job would fall to me.

So, I began watching them to see what makes for a good speaker, what are things that are compelling, what things did I like.

I even made Squink watch them while he would take a bath, the bio-luminescence ones are super cool!

I think I am a mediocre speaker. I have some strengths, but plenty of weaknesses.

But after the event, I had the idea of a themed series of talks, something like the Ted talks I had been watching for cues.

It is possible:  https://www.ted.com/participate/organize-a-local-tedx-event

But I think the one for Phoenix is taken.

And they frown upon “themed” events.

And when I thought about it some more, I saw so many possibilities and had to chuckle at the notion that each one had at least one “rule violation”.

I thought about one dealing with the many faces of cancer; from the physicians that find it, the pathologists that decipher it, the oncologists that treat it, the people who have endured it, the families of those who suffered it, the nurses who care for them, the scientists researching it.

It would be good, but it is a theme and violates the programming rules.

Then I thought about what it was like growing up as a third culture kid, and how cool it would be to get other people who grew up that way. I think my friend Doralice would have some wonderful insights, as would my friend Sparrow, and my friends Jeff and Erica. I think it would be interesting to give voice to that kind of experience. It is a bit unusual.

I have met so many interesting people, I would love to have an event to hear them talk… the Jivaro indian that had to flee his tribe because he wouldn’t convert, the people who started putumayo, the circus people, the rodeo folks, singers, entrepreneurs of the ridiculous, those off grid (the hardest to organize), photographers, movie stars, cartoonists in the golden era, explorers, survivors, hedonists, narcissists, and so on.

That got me to thinking about what would happened if I was told I had to give a Ted talk…  kind of talk could I give? what would it be about?

My ideas for Ted events is large…. but the list of things I feel I would be qualified to talk about is pretty non-existent.

I suppose I could talk about how being diagnosed with cancer was life changing in some spectacularly subtle ways… or what it was like being born to a bullfighter father and an explorer mother, though that is really their stories. About being a child of divorce (booooooring).  What it was like managing a high stress pregnancy, most of which was spent on bed rest (gag me).

At this point in my life, I think I would talk about why I think vaccines are important, from a theoretical view, and cultural view, and prevention view, a mothers view, a survivors view,

What would your Ted talk be about?

*stands for examine your zipper, pretty darn quick, before I look (a childhood phrase)

Being vulnerable

So, one of the blogs I often enjoy reading, did that thing that I dread most and brought up bullfighting.

They referenced this article and had their post begin with:

Bulls 3, Tormentors 0.

Tormentors.

...sigh...

So, I left this comment: I am a bullfighter’s daughter. I feel for all of those men and their families. The bulls did what they were bred to do.

But after all these years, I still get sick to my stomach when I reply to these things and/or bring up my familial ties to bullfights.

I still so vividly recall one day after bullfighting came up in my college English class and people were saying so many things that I knew to be incorrect that I spoke up and corrected them. After class, a woman in her 50’s that was in the class with me came up to me and said “You and your family disgust me”, she then spat on me (my feet, actually) and left before I could have replied. Admittedly, I was pretty speechless.

I can understand why people hate bullfighting, it is so in your face with forces of nature that humans tend to ignore. But, I am so lucky to have seen a very different side (through my father and our bull ranch where we raised fighting bulls), one that is so much more impassioned with things like respect and admiration between two very different animals (the human and the bovine).

I think that if there is a good side to being subjected to the vitriol of those who loathe bullfights… I know what it is like to be bullied (isn’t that an interesting phrase to use here). In my case, I did not choose bullfighting, it is what my father loves with an immense passion. I love my father, I have to include that in our relationship, I have had to come to peace with it, to dig deep and find out why and strangely enough it is through that process that I have learned that every time I want to react strongly to something I know that  I also need to dig deeper (hard to remember, but it is there), to know that there is always more to the story. I have to be gentle, I have to love and most of all… I have to learn how to forgive. It is sure hard when people spit at you though.

 

 My father with my son.

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Bullfights give me heartburn and a bunch of discombobulated thoughts

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.

And by this, I mean THIS:
bw2 - Copy (3)

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.

photo from: http://noputhyfooting.wordpress.com/2011/11/27/where-to-watch-a-bullfight-from-passage-from-death-in-the-afternoon/

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.

Photo credit: http://torosennavarra.com/multa-de-300-euros-a-la-delegada-del-gobierno-y-de-100-a-la-meca/

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.

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Here is how my dad remembers 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.

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Other things I did when I was growing up was things like this – B.O.R.I.N.G. after the first day.

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.

And then there was college, where he managed to talk his brothers and friends into doing this with him:
DAD BULLFIGHT 12 31 1961

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).

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The bruise the calf I fought gave me. I am proud of it because it means I got in close.

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 

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This is me, after I was in the ring, with the rancher who owns the cattle ranch of the calf I fought,  call him a ganadero

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.