Bullfighting is a ritual that commences with a truly spectacular outfit: the suit of lights; the name comes from their brilliant, light-reflecting adornments. They used to be suede but, with the evolution of bullfighting, they’ve come to be made from silk, with the aforementioned gold and silver embellishments. The suit of lights consists of:
- Shirt: usually white with decorations on the front
- Capote or cape: this is what the bullfighter uses to outmanoeuvre the bull
- Capote de paseo or ceremonial “capelet”: a bit smaller than the cape, and quite luxurious. Bullfighters usually adorn it with religious figures depending on their beliefs
- Chaquetilla: or little jacket; open at the armpits to allow the bullfighter mobility, as it tends to be quite rigid
- Plait: In olden days this was a fashion item and today it exists to hold themontera, or hat in place; they’re actually hairpieces.
- Corbatín: a ribbon, usually black, which functions as a tie
- Estoque: this is the sword which kills the bull. The point is curved to make it easier
- Machos: Tassels to adjust thetaleguilla, or trousers
- Tights: usually pink
- Montera: the hat used by bullfighters, which has evolved from the hat with three corners to that which we know today
- Muleta: red cape which is smaller than the capote, used by the bullfighter in the final part
- Taleguilla: the trousers, held in place with braces and reaching down to the knees
- Shoes: black, with a special sole to avoid slipping
Parts of the bullfight
El Paseillo or Inaugural Procession
This is when the bullfighters enter the ring to be introduced to the president. They follow a particular order:
- The first row has the three bullfighters. To the left is the veteran, the second most experienced is to the right and the novice is in the middle. To the sides are the mounted officials
- In the second row, the subordinates of the veteran bullfighter
- In the third row, the subordinates of the second most experienced bull fighter
- In the fourth, the subordinates of the novice
- In the three following rows are the bullfighters’ assistants or picadors, in the same previous order
- The procession is finished by the monosabios or picadors’ assistants and the staff at the ring
Bullfighting with a capote:
El capote is used to receive the bull; it’s very heavy and is usually managed with both hands. The bullfighter uses it in the parts of the bullfight known as the Vara (the first third) and Banderillas (the second), and the bullfighter’s team, or cuadrilla, throughout the fight. It’s quite spectacular; here are some of the main moves:
- Verónica: the most common. The bullfighter has the cape in both hands and incites the bull, moves the cape forward and puts the opposite leg behind, before bringing it forward again, thus preparing for the next Verónica
- Half Verónica: like the Verónica but when the bull passes the bullfighter, he pulls back the capote so that the bull has to go around him.
- Largas: the bullfighter lets go of the capote with one hand. This move has many variations.
- Gaonera: the capote is over the fighter’s shoulder. One outstretched hand leads the bull while the other is kept on his waist.
- Chicuelina: created by the maestro Chicuelo; the bull is provoked as in the Verónica, but when it puts its head down, the toreador turns in the opposite direction
- Porta Gayola: the fighter receives the bull on his knees as soon as he goes into the ring. Extremely dangerous and spectacular!
- Faroles: the capote is passed over the toreador’s head while he spins round to end up facing the bull
First third: Luck of Varas:
This is done on horseback and is used to measure the bravery of the animal. The picador uses the point of his lance to make the bull bleed and check his reaction.
It’s divided into three parts:
- Incitement: gets the bull’s attention so that he charges at the horse
- Encounter: he must charge at the horse three times, and the lance is used to make the bull bleed
- Exit: once the bull has received a lancing, he has to be allowed to leave
Second third: Banderillas
In this part, the bull is provoked, and it’s one of the most spectacular moments of the fight. Normally, thebanderillas (barbed dart with banderoles) are stuck into the bull by the subordinates, known as banderilleros, but it is becoming more and more common for the toreadors themselves to do it. There are various ways of putting in the banderillas:
- Al cuarteo (dodging): bullfighter and bull are facing each other and when the bull charges the bullfighter must move in a semi-circle towards it in order to stick in the banderillas.
- Al quiebro (on the dodge): the toreador waits for the bull with his feet together; when he’s near, he swerves to one side and when the bull goes down, the toreador recovers his position and sticks the banderillas in.
- De frente (facing): a variant of the cuarteo
- Al sesgo: another variation on the cuarteo
- De dentro a fuera(from inside out): this is extremely risky, as the bullfighter passes between the bull and the boards
Final third: The Supreme Moment
At this point in the bullfight, the toreador can offer up the bull to whomsoever he wishes, doing so with the muleta, his stick with a red cloth attached, and the estoque, or sword, he turns towards the person in question and with his arm held out, takes off the montera, or hat, dedicates the bull and throws the hat over his shoulder. Tradition states that it’s a good sign if the hat falls face down, if not, the bullfighter usually turns it over.
This is the part of the bullfight in which the toreador shows off his skill and art. The main steps with the muleta are:
- Natural: muleta in the left hand and without the sword, he sticks his leg out and extends his arm to send the charge further and always below.
- Derechazo (right): same as the natural but with the right hand and the sword in the capote
- Pase de pecho (chest pass): if the charge is shorter than the others, the pass is higher and in the opposite direction.
- Trinchera (right handed pass): from right to left, stopping the bull’s charge with a low blow from the muleta, in order to subdue the creature
After this the bull is killed, the culmination of the spectacle.
Depending on the quality of the faena, or final performance, the President of the bullring gives the matador different prizes: one or two ears, or both ears and the tail. It’s also worth knowing that the first ear is usually conceded by the public, with applause and scarf waving, whilst the second is almost exclusively the decision of the President
Another possibility at bullfights is for the bull to be returned to the bull pen for it to stud, if he has displayed exceptional bravery.