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Blood on the Sand

Bull fighting isn’t for the faint hearted and, some would argue, shouldn’t be for the stout hearted either. Lenesça and I saw our first (and only) corrida de toros in Oaxaca, Mexico, and even though we knew the bulls died we weren’t really prepared for how much blood was going to be shed in the process. After the death of the first bull – there’s usually six – my stomach had that slippery, sliding sensation that suggested that my Corona and I might soon be parting company. Lenesça, the sensitive soul that she is, turned white and couldn’t even finish hers!

It began benignly and thrillingly enough with the bull galloping into the bull-ring and tearing around trying to impale the cape-waving toreros on its horns. After a few minutes of this carry-on, two picadores entered on heavily padded and blind-folded horses. This is the most gruesome of the three suertes (acts). The picadores jab at the bull’s shoulder muscles with their long lances (picas), opening wounds that pulsate blood with every heartbeat and soon the bull is drenched with its own blood. Once significantly weakened the banderilleros appear and stab three banderillas (the blue darts in the photo above) into its back. Finally the matador enters and after exactly 16 minutes of artistic, fancy footwork and cape-twirling bravado delivers the lethal estocada – the act in which a sword is buried to its hilt into the bull’s body, piercing its heart and, all going to plan, dramatically killing the beast. Ole!

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Oaxaca, Mexico
Top Tip
It's a dying tradition so it may not be around for much longer
Written by Dean
Photography by Dean