Warning – graphic content. If you are an “animalista” don’t watch. Inappropriate comments will be deleted.
Important and beautiful things in life must be felt and experienced – they cannot be explained. This same happens with aficion, literally meaning affection: an interest, an affinity, a devotion, some deep fondness, which can be used in many different contexts (sports, music, food), but acquires a deeper meaning when related to wild bulls.
From the earliest years, some glare at the traje de luces (suit of light, literally, meaning the matador’s suit) and take the toreros as their idols and role models. Some just find it cruel and unnecessary.
On European latin countries (Portugal, Spain, France) and some Spanish ex-colonies, (Mexico, Peru, Equador, Costa Rica) society is polarised in this regard, with demonstrations laws, and many written pages on both sides. Unsurprisingly, politicians have used it to earn votes.
I was one of those, born with aficion. While my school friends memorised the names of soccer players, I knew all the major bull fighters by name, and could evaluate their performances.
The phenomenon goes far beyond the Bull rings. People want to be a bullfighter for some moments, either taking lessons on how to use the capote (originally a cape) and muleta (literally a crutch, meaning, a smaller version, with a wooden stick attached); or jumping into the arena, wether on a bull ring, a square or a street, closed for the effect. Some will just run away from the bull, some would jump over, defy it with capes, umbrellas, pieces of fabric or their bare hands.
The adrenalin and the applause are they reward, but there is something more – the inexplainable – the aficion.
Village festivities in may regions must include either bullfights and or, this popular tradition of releasing a bull (sometimes a wild cow) into a confined area, so people can test their courage. The most famous one is probably in Pamplona, (immortalised by Hemingway), but throughout the Summer, they would happen in many places of Portugal and Spain.
As for the professional, “official”, bull fights, Portuguese and Spanish traditions differ in the ways that the first is made mainly on horseback and the bull is not killed in the show, and the second is done mainly on foot and the bull is killed. Both can create intense, plastic, emotional moments, and it’s probably a matter of culture and personal taste. Being Portuguese, I still favour the Spanish way, as it looks (to me) more involving and more true. However the Portuguese forcados, who grab the bull by the horns, and receive no monetary payment, are the purest example of aficion.
Here are the galleries on some festivities I was able to capture on camera:
Pero Pinheiro, 28-6-2013
Vila Franca, 2-7-2017
(Juan Jose Padilla, António João Ferreira and João Ribeiro Telles)