I Tried Bullfighting in Spain and All I Got Was This Giant Butt Bruise

I Tried Bullfighting in Spain and All I Got Was This Giant Butt Bruise

(Originally published November 2012.  Resurrecting a favorite post for the "This Blogger's Life theme:  Write about an act of courage you...participated in.")

There are moments in life when you learn what kind of person you are.  Are you the kind of person who believes in miracles, believes in signs?  Okay, maybe I won't be swinging away at any aliens soon, but that doesn't take away from the fact that there are times in your life when you learn a lot about your character.  How brave are you?  Would you spring to help someone in distress?  Would you run into the path of a bull to distract it from charging someone else?  Does anyone REALLY encounter that last situation?The first time I was faced with someone in an emergency situation, I was 19 years old.  My parents had just purchased a condo in Chicago, and my mom and I were the first ones to spend the night there.  We had a nice dinner and settled in for the night before a day of shopping downtown.  Around 5am, I awoke suddenly to someone screaming, "HELP!!! HELP!!!"  The voice was coming from right outside our door, so despite me being as blind as a bat without my contacts in, my adrenaline kicked in and I FLEW out of bed and ran to the door.  Right before I flung it open, I heard my mom yell "DON'T OPEN THE DOOR!!!", so my feet screeched to a halt and little puffs of smoke came off my heels.  She then came running and looked out the peephole.  In the hallway was a topless lady in a g-string quickly followed by a naked guy.  They talked for a minute, and then she calmly got up and walked away with him.  Totally bewildered, we called the front desk and let them know what was going on.  A few minutes later, we looked outside and saw the nudies getting into a Paddy wagon.  It turned out that the woman was a prostitute, and after supplying her services, she tried to rob the John's condo.  He flipped out on her, and they both got hauled off by the Fuzz.  Totally confused, my mom and I did the only thing you can do in that situation:  burst out laughing and say, "What the hell WAS that???"  I learned three things that night:

1)  Check through the peephole before you open a door, because you may be welcoming a naked, thieving hooker into your home.  I hear they're like vampires:  can't come in unless they're invited.

2)  Keep an eye on your ho's

3)  I spring into action if I know someone's in distress.  Yay bravery!

Fortunately, since "Thong Heist 2003", I haven't had another time where my adrenaline took over and kicked me into action.  Until this past Saturday.

There's this farm called Paloblanco in the outskirts of Utrera that breeds beautiful torrero horses.  They also breed bulls for fights, and they have a small bull ring set up on their property.  For 25 euros a person, you can use their outdoor picnic tables for a party and then get into the ring with an actual bull.  Delgado has hosted a few of these occasions before, and we had heard from past attendants that they were a lot of fun.  They supposedly used only baby bulls in the ring, and no one had gotten hurt in the past.  We were told that the bulls weren't even old enough to grow horns, and that you could just push them away with your hands if they got too close.  They were strong enough to push you around, but you could easily fight back and get to safety.  There's also a bull-fighting instructor who guides you through the motions.  It's a pretty unique experience, and he decided to host one for his going-away party.  Since the bulls were supposed to be tiny, El and I dressed in crappy clothes with the intention of actually getting into the ring with a toro.

The farm is down these dirt roads, past orange orchards and olive groves, in the middle of NOWHERE.  El and I got lost for about 15 minutes before spotting GT waving at us from the parking lot.  Even though the party started at 1, we were the only ones there at 1:45.  We unloaded a cooler of beer and soda into the picnic area, and fellow party goers showed up a few minutes later.  The owner of the farm was an incredibly nice woman who gave us a tour of each of her prize horses.  She took us stall to stall and shared information about each animal.  The horses were gorgeous and very mild-mannered, and we got to pet each one as we went along.  Most of them were Arabian or Portuguese breeds, and a few are famous in Spain for their performances in the ring.  One horse that was particularly beautiful and HUGE is the son and grandson of previous "Champions of the World".  There are pictures of the horses on the barn's walls, and her kids were busy raking hay into each horse's stall.  The farm is family-run, so everyone is invested in the horses' performances.

Nice horsey

After grilling up some burgers and hot dogs and enjoying the company that (eventually) showed up, everyone was herded (no pun intended) into the bull ring for the main event.  I decided to spectate at first, and Jessie and I watched all the guys following the matador instructor inside the ring.  There are four protective partitions inside the ring that the matadors-in-training can run behind to change their diapers after being charged by a bull.  The guys divided themselves up amongst the partitions, and the gate opened to let the harmless, baby bull with no horns into the ring.

Unless the Spanish's definition of "baby" means MUTANT, then why yes, the bull that was released into the ring was a baby.  Either that thing was older than they described, or it was on PED's.  And while the sharp end had been sawed off, there were still two death spears on either side of the bull's head.  Also, I've yet to meet a baby that ran like Prefontaine or who came out of the womb foaming at the mouth.

Gentlemen, start your pants wetting

For a while there, nobody moved and the bull snarled and foamed its way around the ring.  You know, typical baby behavior.  The matador instructor came out with the pink cape and started taunting the bull.  The bull was on the other side of the ring and came FLYING at him, but the matador had plenty of practice and avoided it with ease.  His cape swirled, and he anticipated the bull's next moves with each turn.  Two of the teenage boys, who must be matadors in training, then hopped into the ring and tried their hands at taming the toro.  One boy was graceful and avoided the bull's path, but the other got knocked down immediately.  He laid perfectly still, despite the bull being practically on top of him, until the other guys in the ring distracted it away.  The boy hopped off laughing and jumped up the side of the ring to get out.  Gotta love the dude reaction of "I really want to cry, so I'll laugh instead."

Delgado ran out into the ring a few times with the cape, but the second the bull started coming at him, he ducked back behind the partition.  This of course drew jeers and calls of Spanish vulgarity from the crowd.  He'd actually taken matador lessons with this guy, so we were expecting some fancy footwork from him.  Apparently, however, this was the biggest bull he'd ever encountered at one of these parties. I cannot blame him for ducking.

After being taunted by some Spanish girls about "Not being man enough to jump in", Ben Scott comes flying out of the partition, no cape in hand, and started running around the bull San Fermin syle.  I think it goes without saying that he didn't last too long, and he hobbled out of the ring after the bull came crushing down on his ankle.  Yep, he now has a fractured foot.

Slowly but surely the guys started stepping out into the ring.  They each ran out with the cape, let the bull pass them, then ran like hell back behind the partition.  Delgado put his matador lessons to good use and looked pretty damn impressive with that cape.  He had several successful passes, and didn't get knocked down at all.  GT stood in the middle of the ring (after re-filling his sangria while the bull was distracted by another fighter) and looked like a freaking pro.  Maybe it was the liquid courage, but he was pretty smooth with that cape.

Sangria = Mad bullfighting skills

Despite Huntsman almost losing his manhood, everyone did a great job in the ring.  Elliot got out there twice and had successful passes each time.  I cheered on my hunky matador from the side of the ring, playing groupie until he could potential lose an eyeball like that one matador

Ole!
Now I just need to convince him to wear tight pants

I could feel my confidence soaring until JJ took on the bull.  He did well at first, but then the bull tripped him up and he fell to the ground.  The bull was trampling around him, and knocked him in the air with his head.  JJ actually looked like he was RIDING the bull, because he landed on its neck.  He then hastily jumped onto the side of the ring, but the bull kept charging him.  Everyone ran into the ring at that point to distract the mother f'er, and JJ jumped down and behind the partition, laughing of course.  Jessie and their girls were with me, and she and I had to reassure Emily that her dad was okay and that he was laughing.  The poor thing had started crying, and she was frozen in shock following seeing her dad wrestle a taurus.

The matador instructor and the young matador-in-training gave the guys a break and rode horses into the ring.  Much like the horseback bullfight we saw in Sevilla, the "fight" was more footwork and performance.  Despite having run around the ring for a solid 30 minutes, the teeny tiny baby bull was still full of piss and vinegar and made multiple attempts to charge the horses.  The skill and showmanship of the horses and riders was, as always, impressive, and I think the guys were glad to get a break from being broken.

The horses were led out and by some sudden surge of chest hair and confidence, I said to Jessie, "I'm getting in" and handed her my purse and camera.  While the bull was on the other side of the ring, I hopped down and went behind the nearest partition.  Delgado came over, impressed/surprised that I was in there, and handed me the matador cape.

The f**k was I thinking?

The instructor called over to me, and GT translated that he wanted me to get closer to the bull and flank it with him.  We slowly walked towards the bull to prevent it from gaining speed, and we stood parallel to each other.  He said that the bull would immediately charge me after passing by him, so I knew exactly what was going to happen.  Sure enough, the second that shit passed by the instructor's cape, he made a beeline (bull-line?) towards yours truly.  With my arms holding the cape out as far away from the side of my body as possible, I moved the cape smoothly as the bull ran past me.  While he was distracted by the matador, I ran behind the nearest partition.  Elliot, Stu and Huntsman were already there, so it was a tight squeeze, and I sucked my body in like I was Scarlett O'Hara getting measured by Mammy.  I felt like the biggest bad ass in the history of the world, but I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there.

That's Miss Bad Ass to you

Before I got too comfortable, we noticed that the instructor had gotten into trouble.  He had lost his cape, and the toro was charging him relentlessly.  He jumped up the side of the ring, but the bull kept coming at him, despite all the people hollering to distract it.  Maybe I was still intoxicated by the success of my first fighting experience.  Maybe being in the ring made me think that I was Maximus Decimus Meridius.  Or maybe it was just the sight of someone in trouble.   Whatever it was, the next thing I knew I was back in the ring with the cape, screaming at the bull to grab its attention.  And grab its attention I did.

The bull immediately forgot about the matador and started running at me like I was some sexy cow in heat.  Since he was so close to where I was standing, I didn't have time to think or prepare, and I held the cape too close to my body and not far enough out to my side.  He ran too close to me and I tripped, falling to the ground.  The bull kept charging at me, and I keep trying to get up.  That f**ker must've had some training in judo or something, because it countered every move I made, and I could not get the hell off the ground.  The second I went down, Elliot comes FLYING from behind the partition, and the man who claims to speak no Spanish starts fluently screaming, "MIRA! MIRA! TORO! TORO! MIRA!" before PUNCHING IT IN THE FACE.  A bull.  With horns.  IN THE FACE!  My husband loves me so much, he will PUNCH. A. BULL. IN. THE. FACE! to save me.  While I'm like a rag doll/Randy from a Christmas Story getting knocked around on the ground, Elliot grows gonads the size of Jupiter and starts up a bovine beat-down.  Despite his fist of fury, the bull wasn't distracted and shoved me right into the partition.  From everyone else's vantage point, it looked like the bull rammed into my back and shoved me face first into the side.  They later said how ugly it looked, and they thought for sure I'd have a smashed face (For Sibi and Greg:  Forget about the mustard, look at my FACE!).  The bull actually horned me in the butt cheek (I have one hideous horn-shaped bruise to show for it) and shoved my throat/neck into the side of the partition.  I am beyond lucky that I didn't break my neck, but needless to say it hurt like a mo'.  The guys all got the bull away from me, and Stu quickly grabbed me behind the partition.  I still had the cape in hand though, and the bull wasn't going to shy away as long as it was in its line of vision.  The instructor yelled at me to hide it, but I was starting to get dizzy so I just dropped it on the bull's head.  Stu had the sense, after laughing of course, to grab the cape and hide it behind the partition.  The toro ran towards the other side of the ring, and I was left to process what the f had just happened.

I started getting dizzy, and I felt like I was gonna vomit, so Stu gave me a boost and El pulled me over the side of the ring.  I felt better immediately after sitting down, and Jessie ran over to make sure I'm okay.  Based on her view, she was expecting to see a broken and bloodied Courtney.  She fortunately just found a stunned and bruised one.  She took a picture of my battle wounds to document my heroics:

Sorry, you're not getting to see a pic of my butt bruise

Soon after, the bull was led out of the ring and we all re-grouped outside.  Delgado proclaimed me the Best Matador but the Worst Fall, and even the Spanish men told me that I was brave.  Later that night, I got to share the story of Courtney and the Toro at a friend's party before leaving early to take a hot bath and slather my bod in Bengay.

Did this experience make for a good story?  Hell yeah.  Will I ever do something like that again?  Hell to the NO.  But you can bet your cajones that when I'm back in America, the first thing I'm going to eat is a fat, juicy steak....

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Filed under: Holy Crap, Travel

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    Abeona Adiona

    Chicago gal and current Toronto expat with 47 countries visited, four countries of residence, and hundreds of "why does this kinda stuff only happen to me???" stories under my belt.

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