July 9, 2015
One of the reasons for traveling to is broaden one’s cultural horizons, right? I agree with this idea 100%, but I’m really only saying that to justify a rant.
Last night we were moored in Chipiona, Spain – an ancient and very small scale town near the entrance to the river that leads up to Sevilla, Spain. It’s a fishing town, with an overlay of local tourism, and a great place to walk around – beaches, an old and very impressive tall stone lighthouse, ancient fish farms formed by hauling rocks out into the sea at low tide, and lots of narrow streets, buildings of two or three stories max, except, of course, for the churches, and an almost endless supply of bars and tapas restaurants.
The surprise for us was that none of the many, many bars or restaurants even begin to open until 8:00pm. People eat after it cools off, and apparently no one, other than maybe the fishermen (or, more correctly, fishers) has to get up all that early. Unemployment in Spain is still, after all, 25%.
Hot and thirsty, we were happy to find a bar open, and nearly full, at the ungodly hour of 6:30pm. The reason was the crowd of oldsters, mostly men, watching bullfighting on a big-screen TV. Like most everyone, I’ve read my Hemingway, and seen stories and photos of Manolo, but, honestly, I thought people had quit doing this.
Maybe it was the televising that did it. Bullfights, if they must be watched, should probably be watched from a distance by people with inadequately corrected myopia. I can’t begin to say how ugly it was in close-up. It was a horrible, cowardly spectacle of foolishly, garishly dressed young men tormenting and then clumsily killing confused, bleeding and exhausted herbivores. I grew up with cattle, by the way, so I’m not one to idealize them, but this was just inexcusable.
The bulls were shown into the ring in prime condition, angry, frightened and alone. They charged, as they naturally would, when they saw something moving. But, they are easily fooled by capes. The picadors, who jab barbed sticks into the backs of the bulls, demonstrated that even without a cape it is easy enough for an agile and experienced man to avoid a hurt and bleeding bull.
The whole “contest” between the toreador (and then the matador, or killer) and the bull is totally uneven. The people are experienced, and, presumably, smarter. This is the bull’s first exposure to this sort of thing. The bull is stabbed by the picadors, and then jabbed with a lance in the back and shoulders by a guy on a horse. And most of the horse guys looked like bankers having a holiday while wearing funny hats.
This goes on until the bulls shoulders are covered with sheets of fresh blood. The bulls, exhausted, dehydrated, tongues hanging out, glazed eyes, keep foolishly, predictably, charging the cape, rather than the guy who is carrying it. The guy in the stupid outfit makes all kinds of bizarre faces at the bull, and then, if he wants a lot of credit, takes foolish risks in the immediate vicinity of the large, desperate animal. Once in a while they get stepped on, or even, once every eight or ten years, gored. One is tempted to say, not nearly often enough.
In every area except politics, I’m as conservative as I could reasonably be expected to be at my age. Deer hunting, roast wild duck, fishing for food, all fine with me. But this bullfighting stuff is just torturing animals for some kind of rush. It’s not a fight, it’s not dangerous to the humans, unless they do really dumb stuff, and it’s deeply ugly to watch. Dog-fighting, cock fights, throwing virgins into volcanoes, many “traditional” things should be eschewed, including, bull “fights.” I don’t even like catch and release fishing, which someone once aptly described as “hurting fish for fun.”
Ok, why make a fuss about this. There are far worse human activities, like starving children to support the market price of wheat. Granted.
After the bullfight, the evening got way better. The restaurants eventually opened, we had a good meal, and then found a sherry bodega. The bodega was a small noisy place, full of barrels of sherry and muscatel, oloroso, pasa, fino, golden and others – all locally produced. We sampled and sampled, talked to a local guy, retired from a boatyard (at 50-something) and ended up buying a liter of good, fresh manzanilla sherry, dry, complex and tasting of the sea. The total bill was 7 euros, for the samples and the liter.
On to Cadiz!