Bullfighting has played an integral and contentious role Spanish culture for thousands of years. Testing the lines between brutality, art, sport and cultural history, the event continues to provoke viewers the world over. Naturally, the sport’s violent nature has caused many to reject the tradition as anything other than glorified savagery. It is not necessarily an embrace of activists’ goals that might put the legacy of bullfighting to rest, though; many cite that a depressed economy has the power to kill the sport for good.
Historians can trace Spanish bullfighting back to 711 A.D., when the first known bullfighting event took place in honor of the coronation of King Alfonso VIII. Having roots in the Roman concept of gladiator games, bullfighting was originally a sport reserved for aristocrats and was performed on horseback. Over the centuries, the idea of the sport transformed, until 1724 when the art of dodging and stabbing the bulls on foot became commonplace.
In modern Spain, bullfighting season starts in Spring and ends in Fall. As with other sports, the event begins with an opening ceremony, which is followed by the fight, appearing in three distinct parts. Once officials release the bull, the first third, called the tercio de capa, begins and the matador carries out a series of taunts and passes to tease the bull. The tercio de varas follows, where bullfighters on horseback pierce the bull’s shoulders with lances. Banderilleros then rush the arena and puncture the bull with colored darts thrown into its back.