June 10, 2005

Bullfight World
By Lyn Sherwood

A BULL, BY ANY OTHER NAME

His majestic snorting is terrible.He paws in the valley and exults his strength. He laughs at fear and is not dismayed. His sneezings flash forth light. His eyes are like the eyelids of dawn. Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth. In his neck abides strength, and terror dances before him. When he raises himself up, the mighty are afraid. Though the sword reaches him, it does not avail. Upon earth, there is not his like, a creature without fear. He beholds everything that is high. He is the king over all the sons of pride.

The Book of Job, description of the behemoth.

La Fiesta’s main player, Toro Bravo, is the most ferocious and beautiful natural-born killer ever devised by nature. He has been matched against lions, tigers, and even elephants, and has rarely been defeated. As Ernest Hemingway wrote, he is to the domestic bull as the wolf is to the pet dog. In frontier California, the fighting bull was frequently pitted against the great grizzly bear. For the much heavier bear, it was considered a cruel fate, and one of the bull’s hooves would sometimes be staked to the ground, in order to give the bear a better chance. From such combats came the bull and bear stock market symbols.

Even before being castrated, domestic bulls are raised, shoulder-to-shoulder, in crowded corrals, until, at approximately two years of age, they are led to ignoble slaughter.

But, Toro Bravo is a thoroughbred, which is raised as a wild animal, on ranches designed specifically for that purpose. He is afforded abundant food and water, and endless acres upon which to roam and graze. He is denied nothing except the presence of a cow, a fact that undoubtedly contributes to his evil disposition.

He will attack anything that moves, without provocation. There are many stories on record of fighting bulls killing themselves, attacking freight trains or trucks that seemed to have invaded their territory.

When, at four years of age, he is sent to the plaza de toros, he has had only minimal exposure to man on foot. From a standing start, he can outrun any quarter horse for 100 yards. As author Barnaby Conrad has written, Toro Bravo “can pick up a postage stamp from the ground, or catch a leaf in mid-air.” He is a proud, noble beast, and La Fiesta is the stage upon which his royalty is proclaimed.

Toro Bravo is judged by three precepts: bravery, nobility, and strength. Bravery inspires the attack; nobility causes it to be honest and true; and Toro Bravo’s strength must be great enough to allow him to make at least three honest entries to the picadores’ horses, and to maintain his power and offensive nature through all three acts of the corrida de toros.

To be a genuine aficionado, one must be able to judge the performance of the bulls, as well as that of the toreros, and to never tolerate any degradation of the true King of Beasts.

It is, after all, the Fiesta de Los Toros, a regal pageant of brave and noble blood, not the testing of the courage of man, but that of a four-legged majesty, known as Toro Bravo.

The Black Virgin

Waiting, watching,

preparing for the inevitable,

The black virgin shudders.

Slowly and gently, he approaches,

feeling his way, using the rising heat,

directing the innocent one.

With practiced movements,

he removes the virgin’s

cloak of confusion,

the wrap of fear, replacing it with

confidence, trust.

Desire rises.

Loins shake with excitement.

Perspiration flows, freely,

dancing in pools of anticipation

upon their anxious bodies.

Soon, there is blood.

But, the black virgin

refuses to cry out.

They move together,

rhythmically riding the

waves of climax, the

swirls of painful emotion.

Furiously, now,

helping each other through

slow motion flashes of

boundless magnanimity.

Again. Again. Again. And, again.

The joyful union continues as eternity

smoothly, plastically,

suspended in time and space.

There is no fear, now.

no apprehension,

no questioning.

This was written,

destined,

demanded,

ordained.

Redness flows, sealing their pact.

Silent screams, pleading.

Exhaustion.

Eyes study each other.

The finale of brief immortality.

The end of the never ending.

He plunges deeply,

violently, deliberately.

The black virgin endures

his brutality within,

then finally surrenders

to him.

Tears sing couplets of

happy remorse.

He tours the plaza,

ears in hand.

But, he thinks not of

the music,

the plaudits,

the rewards.

He remembers, instead,

the glorious, noble

black virgin,

exiting gracelessly

behind the mules.

And, he cries.

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