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Guide to bullfighting in Guadalajara

January 30, 2013

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Whether you consider it sport, art, entertainment or barbarism, there’s no denying that bullfighting is Mexico’s most controversial pastime.

Derided as a brutal blood sport by animal rights activists, bullfighting is nonetheless ingrained in Mexico’s Spanish cultural heritage, with supporters even arguing that it is a traditional art form and not as sport, as the practice features no real element of competition.

At each event there are three professional matadors or “toreros” who take turns to fight six bulls, two apiece. The fights last around twenty minutes, with the matadors aided by several assistants who test the bull’s mood, speed, power and agility before wounding it with long pikes and impaling “bandilleras” (wooden sticks decorated with colored paper) in the back of its neck.

The matador will then perform a series of close-range maneuvers against the bull, drawing its attention with a red cloth so as to avoid being gored or trampled. Once the wounded bull has been subdued, the matador will aim to kill it by driving a sword between the shoulder blades. This single thrust is known as the “estocada.”  If the beast fails to die, the matador may finish it with a stab to the neck which severs the spinal cord.

Once the bull is dead, the matador may be awarded one or two ears, the tail and the hoof in recognition of his skill and bravery. The crowd waves white handkerchiefs to encourage the judge to award such trophies and persuade the matador to then throw them into the stands. The crowd then returns the honor by throwing flowers into the arena.

Understandably, animal rights activists fiercely criticize the sport because the bulls are killed in a slow, torturous and violent manner. The abolitionist movement has gathered pace in recent years, with Catalonia becoming the first mainland region in Spain to outlaw bullfighting in September 2011.

Politicians in Mexico City – which is home to the world’s biggest bull ring, the 55,000-seater Plaza Mexico – also raised the possibility of banning the sport in the capital last year, yet its popularity remains undiminished in other cities such as Guadalajara.

The local bullfighting season runs from late August through to March at Guadalajara’s Nuevo Progreso Plaza de Toros, an almighty arena built in 1967 which holds some 20,000 spectators.

Known in Spanish as “las corridas de toros,” the fights take place most Sundays at 4.30 p.m. The most important bullfighting season of the year – known locally as “la temporada gande” – is coming up, with fights scheduled on February 3, 10, 17 and 24.

The upcoming fights feature famed matadors Rodolfo “El Pana” Rodriguez and Morante de la Puebla, although Spanish pin-up Julian “El Juli” Lopez has been forced to cancel his appearance after fracturing his arm in a recent car crash in his native country.

The organizers in Guadalajara have considered postponing his appearance until late February or early March, but medical experts say Lopez will need to rest for two months, meaning he will miss 14 bullfights across Mexico in February.

The Nuevo Progreso bullring is located beside the Estadio Jalisco soccer stadium at Pirineos 1930, just off the Calzada Independencia in the Monumental neighborhood. Tickets range from 90 to 1,350 pesos ($7 to $160 US), with seats in the shade more expensive than those in the sun.

Tickets are also available from Ticketmaster or at the box office from 11.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, or from 10 a.m. on Sundays. For more information and complete lineups visit www.plazanuevoprogreso.com.mx.

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