The Resurrection of the Salequena Bullring

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BullringImagine all the culture, the charm and the color that make up a Mexican Fiesta, toss in a bunch of tourists and locals looking to share a good time and you’ve got all the elements that are needed for one memorable evening of fun. This combination is now available due to an ancient tradition that has been resurrected at the La Sanluquera Bullring in Cabo San Lucas.

“Bull fights are part of a rich colonial heritage in Mexico that we are trying to save,” said local businessman Armando Covarrubius. “We want to bring back this heritage and let people see some of the local traditions, including bullfighting.”

For those of you who may have been coming to Los Cabos for a while, you’ve probably noticed that the bull ring–found on the corner of the main highway and Pueblo Bonito Drive, has not had a bullfight for quite a long time. Periodically, various activities and private parties have utilized the arena for their own affairs, but bullfighting has not been on the bill. Many have found this odd, since the arena is clearly noted and well known by everyone as, Bullfighting Stadium.

Bullfighting originated in Spain where it is called the Fiesta Nacional (The National Sport). there its origins date back to 711AD when the first bullfight (corrida) took place in honor of the crowning of King Alfons VIII. It was introduced by the Moors.

Bullfighting is literally a symbolic dance with death. There is a precise process, using more than one torero or bullfighter and more than one color and size cape that is followed. The purpose of each stage is to carefully examine and study the movements and strengths of the bull before the matador or master bullfighter steps into the plaza de toros, or bullring. One wrong move and he could end up gored or seriously injured, even here where the bull is considered smaller and immature and the sport is really more an exhibition or show.

It is reported that each year, within Spain 24,000 bulls are killed in front of an audience of 30 million people. Bullfighting was originally done on horseback and was a sport reserved for the aristocracy. This change when Felipe V prohibited the nobles from practicing the sport. From then on common folk took it on, facing the bulls unarmed dodging and taunting the bull. Around 1724 the sport was transformed from horseback to foot. In the old days, when the bull was actually killed, it was another affirmation of this same “dance with death” symbolism.

“People from around the world do not generally share an enthusiasm for bullfighting that Mexican or Spanish people might,” observed one man. The image of dying bulls not been a popular one with people north of the Rio Grande, though many cultures have had some form of fighting with bulls. In Mexico City, 2002 attending a bullfight was banned for anyone under the age of 18–a law which most everyone openly ignores. And, Bullfightingis still practiced wtih enthusiasm throughout Mexico.

Rather than take part in any controversy, Sr. Covarrubius found a way to retain the culture and excitement of a Bullfighting Fiesta, but eliminate the gore. He revived the tradition by offering a Bloodless Bullfight, every Thursday evening at 7 P.M. and added educational and cultural components.

The tradition of bloodless bullfights is a long one–longer, than those of killing the bull, with many variations. The Portuguese bullfight, for instance takes place on horseback and never ends with the death of the bull in the ring. Some regions, trying to retain the excitement and demonstration of machismo that bullfighting promotes have become famous for “running with the bulls” (as in Pamplona, Spain) or other activities that either precede or follow toro-related events. Of course, Western Cowboys revere ostrich running loose on the sidelines, which found the matador’s costume and was removing sequins. The food is served buffet style and can only be described as Mexican home cooking, homemade right down to the hand-flattened tortillas. One patron smiled between bites,” It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Children are a high priority at this fiesta. The initial Mexican Dancers are children, who showcase regional dances from throughout Mexico. Each state, we learned has its own particular kind of dancing. The more spectacular Machete Dances, regional dances, rope twirling, the famous Mexican Hat Dance and an exciting Ballet on Horseback are mostly performed with teenagers and young adults, except for one youthful rider who was only eight years of age.

Audience involvement is a key element, as everyone from the little ninos to the grown-ups are given an opportunity to try the dances, twirl a rope, run down a goat of ride a donkey all before the main attraction begins with one simple purpose in mind.”This all may look easy, but it is very difficult,” the master of ceremonies is quick to point out. It should also be noted that the donkey races is the place in the progrm where the element of danger is added to the fair.

Four volunteers are taken into the arena from the audience of completely unskilled and unqualified onlookers. With no training and few directions (mostly in Spanish) one person from each “team” is handed a rope that is attached to the muzzle of a donkey. the other teammate (remember, these people just met) try to sit on a bucking burro, while it is led around the ring. On the night we witnessed, one of the teams broke up, mid-race as a contestant abandoned her post and jumped out of the ring, to the complete delight of the audience.

When the next volunteers were requested, it was easy to foretell the chain of events was on a natural progression of dangerous to more dangerous. The second stunt included two people from the audience–both witnesses of the previous donkey race–who were put onto a huge teeter-totter. This was not dangerous enough, so the proceeded to release the bull into the arena.

These people had to push themselves skyward, out of harm’s way each time the bull charged one of them (which it did). When the toro was led from the ring and these people returned to the stands, one of them, Steve Wright of Edmond, Oklahoma was heard to comment, “it wasn’t as bad as the donkey race.”

Finally, the moment that everyone was waiting for arrived. The Matador and his Chamadores entered the arena.

In a blook filled fight, the picadores and rejoneadores have the job of tiring and weakening the bull. That job of tiring and weakening the bull. That job was obviously fulfilled by unwitting tourist in this case. The bull had plenty of fight left at the outset and made some spectacular passes with the matador armed only with a small wooden stick and a piece of cloth. In the end, it was a night of color, customs and culture that ended with most everyone feeling as if they got their money’s worth, except of course a very tired bull.

Ole!

This article was original published in the Weekly Magazine, Destino: Las Cabos in the Winter of 2006

Barbara & Gordon Richiusa continue their travels from Barcelona to Spain aboard the high speed Eurorail. When they arrive in Madrid they encounter some very interesting people and events. In this segment they share their experience of watching a bullfight in a suburb of Madrid.

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Gordon Richiusa About Gordon Richiusa

Gordon Richiusa is an Italian American who has been a martial artist for some 50 years. He teaches the Five Bird System. Gordon earned a Master of Arts degree in English and has written numerous articles, stories, books and scripts under his own name and his pen-name, Gordon Rich. He has been a teacher of English Composition, Film as Literature, Creative Writing, and Scriptwriting and He holds two teaching credentials.