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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bulls






In almost fourteen years in Ecuador I had successfully avoided the bull ring. I just wasn't interested in seeing man take on bull. During a recent visit by my daughter's father-in-law he talked me into taking him to see what he and I thought would be a bull fight. Quito has its bull ring in north Quito where during Quito Days (the first week of December) there are full fledged bull fights with famous matafores. This was not what we went to see. We saw a sign advertising a bull fight in San Jose de Moran, one of the outlying communities on the northeast side of Quito, so we decided to go. It was advertised for 2 p.m. We caught a bus up to the small plaza in front of the San Jose de Moran Church. From there we asked directions to the bull fight. Some children knew the way and for a quarter we had a guide. Think small town rodeo now. We paid our $3 entrance fee and came into an area that was partitioned off from a soccer field. The owners had put up tarps to block off viewing by those who didn't pay to come in. There was a coral around which people could gather and then there was a raised platform. We paid $1 to rent a plastic chair each and climbed the ladder to the covered platform. We set up and waited. While waiting for the bull fighting to begin, along came a young man. He sat down on the edge of the platform and promptly dropped something. He climbed into the ring and on his way out my son-in-law offered him a hand up. Unfortunately the young man was already running on alcohol or some other drug. He wanted to know if we were going to "torrear" (fight the bulls). We quickly told him no. He pulled out his cape to show us his plans to fight. Soon the loud music ceded way to an announcer who told us of the imminent release of the first bull. Suddenly a about 10 spectators entered the ring, most congregating around a small safe zone in the center of the coral. This area was about 4 feet by 4 feet wide and was nothing more than a small cage made from logs stood upright in the earth. As the first bull was released these young men did all they could to taunt the bull into coming their way. They were mostly operating on liquid bravery or a sense of machismo designed to impress their girls. It was interesting to watch one strut onto the field like he was something and then scurry to the safety of the safe zone the moment the bull took a step in his direction. Suddenly our bull fighting friend appear in the ring, cape in hand chasing behind the bull. Of all the amateurs on the field of battle this young man was clearly the bravest or the most foolhardy. We weren't sure which. Time after time as the macho men dived over the wooden fence or ran for the safe zone, bullfighter used his cape to trick the bull to the left or right of his body. Only on a few occasions did he feel the need to climb the wall. There was another group of men there. I guess they were a subset of the macho men. They were the vaqueros, or cowboy types. It was odd to see the spurs, the pointed boots, jeans and cowboy shirts and hats on Ecuadorians. They too scurried for safety every time the bull came their way. Bullfighter persisted in tracking down and engaging the bull, occasionally losing his footing due to drink or drug. We were concerned for him. It would only be a matter of time until the bull would win. Bullfighter made it through the first hour and it wasn't until the third bull came out that his time was up. The bull pinned him against the fence, fortunately not goring him but apparently breaking his wrist. As he retired from the ring the fire department medics came to check on him. He was through for the day. We were glad he was not seriously injured. After an hour and a half of drunks taunting and running from the bulls we wondered if the main event was about to begin. Certainly a small community bull fight isn't just a bunch of drunks running around with the bulls? Suddenly in came the clowns. These guys were used to fighting the bulls and were pretty good. One made a big deal of grabbing the microphone and asking where we three gringos were from. They were proud that we were there at their small time bull fight and made us feel welcome. Maybe a little too welcome as after the first period of clown antics with the bulls one climbed into the stands to try to offer us a drink from the same big beer bottle that they had forced into the bull's mouth. We declined because we don't drink and if we did we wouldn't drink after bulls. Some of the crowd did. This was followed by one of the young macho cowboys riding a bull. He did a pretty good job, staying on the bull until it surprised everyone by crashing between the upright logs of the safe zone leaving the cowboy hanging in the air. Whether we arrived at a midway intermission in the program or the end we weren't sure. I suspect it was intermission. We realized that there wasn't much more that could happen that was new unless they were going to have drunk women fight the bull next. I wasn't sure I wanted to see that. I remember a sign at the ticket booth that said that children under 12 were not allowed in the bull ring. By now there were boys even younger than 12 in the ring. The police and medics didn't seem too concerned. Time to go. I thought of placing a cache in the area but it was just not practical. Chalk it up to another interesting cultural experience. Rural town Ecuadorian bullfighting isn't what you think of. Yet, a positive point is that they didn't hurt the bulls. If anything it was the drunks who get hurt. Not the best day of entertainment. I won't go back.
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