Battle to the Death: Mexican Bullfighting

Culture Facts

Where: Monumental Plaza, Mexico City, Mexico
What Happens: A pitching of man vs bull in front of the world’s largest bullfighting crowd 
One of the few remaining bloodsports – a contentious display of ritual and pageantry

Where It’s At

The Monumental Plaza Mexico is the largest bullfighting ring in the world and holds up to 60,000 people. Primitive bullfighting started around 2000 years before Christ and has evolved into today’s more organised, but no less dangerous, bullfights. The success rate of matadors (bull fighters) should turn you off a career in bullfighting because about half of the great matadors in the world were killed in the ring!

Fight Club

Watching a corrida de toros (bullfight) is not for the faint hearted, but to experience true Mexican culture you cannot beat the drama and pageantry that occurs both in the ring and amongst the spectators in the crowd.

In an average afternoon session at Monumental Plaza you can see three different matadors, each fighting two bulls. The fight begins when the bull is released into the ring and the bullfighters assistant (torero) will take a few passes of the bull with his cape, to gauge the reactions of the bull. Then picadors riding horses enter the ring and draw the first blood then exit the ring. The traditional cape work with the bull then follows, with each pass of the cape being accompanied by a hearty cry of “ole!” from the crowd. The eventual killing of the bull is always performed in a very traditional and ritualistic manner, by thrusting a lethal blow of the sword deep into the bulls back. The way that the bull is killed will bring shame to the bullfighter if it is not perfect, and a judge scores the killing.

Cultural Legacy

Whilst the issue of bullfighting is contentious for much of the English-speaking world, the bullfight has deep-seated roots in Mexican culture. Bullfighting has been attacked for being un-ethical and promoting cruelty to animals. Most arguments against bullfighting concerns the drawn out way that the bull is killed and the fact that the alleged battle to the death can be rigged by torturing the animal before the fight to weaken it. In Mexico an anti-bullfighting organization exists called the Mexican Peña Antitaurina Mexicana, but it seems that they have had little impact to the status-quo.

Getting There

To get to Monumental Plaza you can easily catch the Metro to San Antonio station (linea 7), then take the Avenida San Antonio exit. After exiting the station turn right and walk about 10 minutes.

Main Image: Plaza de toros de Tlaxcala, Russ Bowling, Flickr Creative Commons