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Feria de Quito: Bullfighting

The trumpets blare a theatrical fanfare. A small doorway in the ringside opens, and a massive bull hurtles into the centre of the ring. Confused, it suspiciously eyes the spectators, wondering what is going on.

The bull doesn’t get long to think—one-by-one, three toreros in highly ornate costumes appear from the sidelines, waving shocking pink and yellow capes to provoke the bull. Irritated, it charges across the ring. The toreros leap for shelter around the ring’s edge. The matador keenly watches from the edge, assessing its behaviour as the bull attacks the wooden fence with its horns, trying to reach the elusive toreros.

The crowd goes wild. La Monumental Plaza de Toros is packed—Quiteños have been queuing all week for tickets to today’s spectacle. The men don cowboy or panama hats, shirts and jeans and pour red wine into their open throats from botas (wineskins) and cheer. The ladies are dressed more appropriately for a night on the town rather than an afternoon on the concrete seats of the bullring. Every so often, the crowd breaks into a verse of "El Chullita Quiteño," a rowdy local anthem.

From above, the trumpets proclaim the entry of Picadors on horseback. Their dazzling costumes glitter in the midday sun. The bull, bewildered by this turn of events, and now angry from the taunting, turns its attention from the sheltering Toreros and takes up the new challenge, hurtling towards one of the Picadors. The horse, whilst armoured, takes the full weight to its side. The Picador lances the bull in its back below its horns. The blood flows heavily, bubbling out of the bull and dripping onto the sand. The Picadors exit as a daring and nimble Banderillero runs at the bull and stabs it in its back with banderillas, which dangle precariously from the bull.

 The Matador enters the ring and the crowds cheer. This is what they have been waiting for. He holds a small red cloak concealing a razor-sharp sword. Weakened, the enraged bull charges at the cloth, hoping to gore the arrogant Matador with its sharp horns. Gasps of terror take hold as the ferocious bull briefly gets lucky—the Matador is knocked to the ground. Trembling with fear, the crowd watches in horror as the Matador is gouged in the leg. A worried Banderillero offers aid, frantically waving his pink cape and angering the proud Matador who shoos him away and breaks free of the horns. The dance between bull and man continues and the beast tires, blood spewing from the holes in its back. Sensing its fatigue, the Matador conceals his blade beneath the cape. In a climatic finale, he reaches between the bull’s horns and, with all his strength, plunges the blade between the beast’s shoulder blades and into its heart. The bull drops.

As the corpse is dragged from the arena, from within the assembly, dozens of red roses fly at the victorious Matador, symbolising the throng’s enjoyment of the show and appreciation of his technique and daring. He strides around the ring bowing and catching the roses. This pleases the people, who cheer more.

Feria de Quito last for 10 days. During this time there are daily bullfights—at a rate of six bulls per day over a 10 day period, a total 60 bulls are killed. However repulsive this may seem to some, few protest. With its roots arguably in Minoan Greece, brought to Latin America by the conquistadores hundreds of years ago and still thriving here today in Ecuador, bullfighting is here to stay.

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