Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bogotá's Bullfighting Museum

Chamber of honors or chamber of horrors?

Grotesque? Traditional? Cruelty? Not many human endeavors are as controversial and multifaceted as bullfighting, and you'll find all those diferent aspects in the Museum of Bullfighting in the Plaza de Torros Santamaria.

There are the heads of distinguished bulls, honored (and mutilated) for having put up an exciting fight. And then the picadores, shafts tipped with evil-looking iron blades with which the bulls are stabbed to start the bleeding and prevent them from lifting their heads and more easily goring the bullfighter. There are the bullfighters, most of them forgotten young men, and a few of tauromaquia's idols.

The head of a bull honored for putting up a great fight. Its ears were cut off and given to the bullfighter as an honor.
For its critics, bullfighting consists of tormenting and torturing an animal before finally killing it. For its supporters, bullfighting is an art full of skill and subtlety, requiring great courage and willpower. Certainly, it is filled with tradition - everything from the colors of the 'suit of lights' to the order in which the bullfighters enter the plaza follows centuries of tradition. Most likely, bullfightings is all of those things.

Bullfighting appears to be on the decline. The Plaza Santamaria doesn't attract the crowds it used to, and Colombia's high court recently ruled that bullfighting, because it is a tradition, could continue, but that government entities should not subsidize it. And Spain's Cataluña province recently prohibited the sport there.
Colombian bullfighters
A local character - he fought bulls in his firefighter's uniform.
Manolete, one of history's most famed bullfighters.
A picador - its bladed end is hidden. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogota Bike Tours

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