|Nicolas Nossa, bullfighter|
I've never seen a bullfight except on Youtube, and before moving to Colombia I'm sure I had a very stereotypical comic book image of bullfighting: a violent, bloodthirsty, murderous activity in which the bullfighter hurled himself in the face of death and tried to kill the bull as quickly as possible.
But that's not the case at all. Bullfighting is a subtle contest in which the bullfighter shows off his quickness, dexterity and courage by getting the bull to charge past him, as closely as possible, with every chance of killing the bullfighter if he miscalculates or the bull makes an unexpected move. Bullfighters do respect the bulls - particularly those considered courageous - altho that creates no obstacle to killing them.
|One of Mr. Nossa's students.|
Nossa also denied some common accounts of alleged cruel or cheating practices, such as smearing the animal's eyes with vaseline or injuring its genitals. That might work for rodeo, but not for a good bullfight, he pointed out. A good bullfight requires a strong, able, aggressive bull who puts up an honorable drama. A bull with vaseline on its eyes would smash itself against the ring's walls and one with injured genitals would be a poor fighter.
|One of Nossa's students in action. He's standing in back watching. (Photo: MiBurladero)|
|Nicolas Nossa, triumphant in the ring. (Voyalostoros.com)|
Bullfighters I've met don't seem to feel sorry for the bulls they kill - unless the animal has fought particularly bravely and courageously. Most bullfighters I've met admit to fear.
If bullfighting is anything it is traditional. A match-up reaching back millenia, bullfighting is perhaps the most primordial of human contests. Cattle, after all, are so fundamental to human society that words like the Spanish 'ganar' and English 'gain' come from terms for cattle. (Ganado in Spanish.) Everything from the matador's suit of lights, his ponytail and even the order in which matadors enter a bullring is dictated by tradition.
|Morenita faces off against a bull.|
In Colombia animals rights activists are often referred to as environmentalists, altho the causes are very different. Some bullfighting fans defend their sport with a sort of biodiversity argument: fighting bulls are a special breed, raised and bred only for the bullring. If bullfighting were prohibited, as seems to be slowly happening, the breed will disappear. While that's true, fighting bulls (or any sort of cattle, for that matter), are not part of native biodiversity and I don't think that losing them would be any worse than losing a breed of dog or cat. However, Nossa offered a more substantial environmentalist argument for bullfighting. Bull-raising ranches, he said, protect lots of other native species, which would otherwise be hunted out. That's a good point.
|No child's play: A 16-y-old bullfighting student displays a scar from a bull's horn. His father was a bullfighter and he grew up surrounded by it. "It's my love, it's my passion," he said.|
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours