American Masters -- PRAIRIE TO PARIS -- Exploring the Worlds of MY ANTONIA and THE SUN ALSO RISES
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THE SUN ALSO RISES: La Corrida de Toros

Bullfighting is a pillar of Spanish culture. It is also a symbolic event in THE SUN ALSO RISES. Señor Hemingway, however, doesn't give the reader much useful information about the sport. Here is a condensed version of "Bullfighting 101."

The major aspects of bullfighting vary among different countries. In some cultures, bulls are fought to demonstrate the dramatic athleticism of the matadors. In other cultures, bloodless bullfighting is becoming popular. In Spain, every bull bred to fight must die.

There are three stages to a bullfight. In the first stage, a bullfighter on horseback (called a picador) pierces the bull's neck twice with a lance. Until recently, picadors' horses were often fatally gored. A relatively new rule has been passed giving the horses protective armor.

The second stage of a bullfight involves the banderilleros. A banderillero is a bullfighter who runs and thrusts two pointed darts (called banderillos) into the bull's neck muscle. Three banderilleros appear, which means that a maximum of six darts are stuck into the bull.

The matador -- the grand bullfighter -- appears in the final stage of the fight. He uses his muleta (red cape) to execute maneuvers designed to tire the bull. This should be done gracefully and as closely to the bull's horns as possible. After the matador has demonstrated his mastery of the animal, he is to kill it quickly with a single stab of his sword. (In modern bullfighting, this doesn't often happen, and the bull is stabbed repeatedly with a dagger until it dies.)

At a Spanish bullfight, each of three matadors must kill two bulls. The bulls are specially bred for the sport and must meet certain criteria before they are accepted. It is estimated that 30,000 bulls are killed in bullfights annually in Spain.

As you can imagine, bullfighting is the recipient of both praise and contempt. Animal rights activists campaign on behalf of the horses and bulls, but still the fighting continues. And it's not surprising. Bullfighting is hundreds, possibly thousands of years old. Experts don't agree on the sport's origins, but the most commonly held beliefs are that it dates back to ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, the 11th century Moors, or prehistoric hunting. Steeped in the legends and legacies of societies such as these, it seems unlikely that bullfighting will end any time soon.


(See also the Palabras vocabulary section to learn more about the language of the bullfight.)


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