Bullfighting is a polarizing event unique to Spanish culture that is as brutal as it is interesting. Although called a fight, it shares similarities with a play, the effectiveness of the story being told is determined by the ability of the performance’s ringleader, the matador, to walk the line between control and chaos with a live 600 kilos bull.
It takes place at the plaza de toros de Las Ventas, an arena that is a cross between the two arenas where Russel Crowe fights in Gladiator: it combines the intimacy of the ‘Are you not entertained?’ arena and the elegance of the Coliseum. It can be reached by the metro, there is a self-titled 2 line stop outside the arena. La “plaza” is the largest in Europe and third biggest in terms of seating in the world, but Las Ventas is far cooler looking than the two arenas that are bigger than it.
A regular bullfight consists of three parts and three types of bullfighters. Each type of matador is the primary performer in one of the three parts. There are two picadores, bullfighters on horseback who carry spears who perform the first part. Two banderilleros, who carry two arrow-like objects perform the second part. And one matador who contributes to the first two parts and performs the third part. Each bullfighter has his own team of two picadors, and two banderilleros. Each team fights two bulls. A typical bullfight consists of three teams, fighting six bulls, and takes just over two hours to perform.
Along with the bullfighters there is a person called the President, an important figure whose function is explained by a maintenance worker at Las Ventas, named Santiago Vila, as “the one who judges and times the fight. Before the fighting, the bullfighters come out and they salute the President. He judges [the fight] with different coloured [handkerchiefs]”. The handkerchief that is primarily used is a “white one that awards the matador with one of the bull’s ears, the crowd can also cheer for the matador and ask the President to award the matador with the other ear, but this is still the President’s decision”. The crowd asks him to award an ear by waving white handkerchiefs, or really any white object, in the President’s general direction following a fight.
To buy tickets go directly to the Ventas website (las-ventas.com) because tickets are cheapest there. The tickets range from 2.90 euros to 150 euros depending on the event and location of seat. Location of seat affects the price in two ways: the traditional way of the closer the seat the more expensive the ticket, but also depending on sunlight. The tickets in the sun are cheaper than the ones in the shade. There are also seats that start in the sun and become shaded later whose prices fall in the middle of the other two areas. Before you buy your tickets check what time the fight starts because they can take place at night, but the tickets that would be in the sun are still cheaper despite there being no sun out. The best seats are in section seven, this is where the most passionate bullfighting fans sit. It is across the arena from the President, the first part of the fight takes place in front of it, and the bull is presented to it after the fight. Section seven is also the most crowded
If you have an iPhone you can transfer your ticket to Apple wallet. If you have a different smartphone you can print your ticket at a chain of stores that exist throughout Madrid called Workcenter for 15 cents. You cannot pull up and scan a PDF of the ticket.
If you want to factor in food and drink prices into your decision making, beer starts at 9 euros, a glass of liquor is five euros, water is 1.50 euros, soda 2.50 euros, sandwiches are 2.50 euros, and snacks are 1.50 euros.
Although you should buy the tickets on las-ventas.com, before you buy, look at the event on bullfightingticketsadrid.com first because it will tell you the type of fight. Sergio Gilabert, a ticket vendor at Las Ventas, explained that there are three different kind of fights at Las Ventas. The first is called Novillada con Picadores called “Novillada” on bullfightingticketsmadrid.com, which entails “three to four-year old bulls fought by novilladas apprentice matadors”. The second is called Corrida de Toros, simply called “Bullfight”, is “four to six-year old bulls fighting full matadors”. The third is Corrida de Rejones, called “Rejones”, which is “bulls fighting matadors on horses, the bulls have their horns blunted to prevent injury to the horses”, says Gilabert.
Before buying you should consider how much violence you can take, or if you want to buy food and drinks, because people are not allowed to get up from their seats during a bullfight, only between the fights. If you don’t want to know what specifically happens in a bullfight before going, do not read this last section. If you’re on the fence between going or not, and the decision hinges on the amount of violence in the event, the following is a synopsis of the violent moments in a single fight.
The bull will charge at a blindfolded horse being ridden by a picador who, when the bull makes contact with the horse, is going to stab it between its shoulders with a spear. The bull will charge banderilleros who stab and stick six arrow like objects between the bull’s shoulders. The bull will charge the matador, who is concealing a sword, with which the matador aims to stab the bull between the shoulders and through to its heart. If this is properly acomplished, then the bull will stagger for a moment, bleed from the mouth, and fall over.
If the sword does not deliver a fatal wound, the bull will be brought to lower its head so it can be stabbed between the shoulders and through to the heart with more ease. After the bull is fatally wounded, a dagger is used to pull the plug completely. The bull is then dragged out of the arena by a team of three mules. Throughout the fight the bull bleeds profusely and is exhausted by the bullfighters. It is also a possibility that one of the performers gets injured by the bull, a few of them have even died in the arena.
Las Ventas; Calle de Alcalá, 237; Metro Ventas; Time of bullfight varies. Stadium is open to public from 10 AM – 5:30 PM every day; 2.30 Euro – 150.15 Euro. http://www.las-ventas.com/