The reputation of bullfighting goes in cycles. Those that see it as cruelty will naturally want to avoid it. Others, like the Mexicans themselves, who view it as a contest of skill and daring between man and beast are fascinated.
Some will be intrigued despite themselves, no matter what their take on the subject. In any case, there’s no denying that seeing a bullfight has been a part of a vacation to Mexico for generations.
It’s not hard to see why. Just as we can hardly tear our eyes away from all sorts of dangerous, even gory, activities, so a bullfight offers a spectacle like none other. These magnificent animals are fierce and determined. That might equally well describe the matador, who adds elements of dance to the scene.
Bullfighting has a long history, going back as far as the Romans, some of whom worshiped the sacred bull. That element later made its way to Mexico along with many other Spanish customs. In fact, many bull rings are located near temples dedicated to Mithras, a religion that was popular among the Roman military. The sacrifice of a bull played a role in one of their rituals.
There are about 220 permanent bull rings in Mexico and the season runs from November to April, perfect for winter vacation from colder climes.
Travelers headed to central Mexico City have good fortune on their side. One arena here holds 60,000 viewers and the crowd gets as animated as any you’ll see at a football game back home. The Plaza de Toros de Mexico has been open since 1946. The most famous matadors in the world have performed here for generations.
Off to Puerta Vallarta on the West Coast for some fun in the sun? Reserve some time and make for the Toros Plaza. Be prepared by taking plenty of sunscreen and water because if the sun doesn’t make you sweat the action will.
If your vacation plans take you East all the way to Cancun you can still catch a bullfight. The contests are in the Plaza de Toros. You can snorkel in the morning and still have plenty of time to see the performance in the afternoon.
For those who prefer their bullfights on the gentler side, there are bloodless bullfights as well. Instead of swords or barbed sticks, the matadors use Velcro-tipped sticks they attach to Velcro pads on the backs of the bulls. Safe for the bull. For the matador, not so much. The horns may be blunted but that charge is still fueled by several hundred pounds of an angry beast. Bloodless bullfights – at least none with the bull’s blood getting spilled – are easy to find in Mexico City.
Whatever an individual’s view of sport or barbarity, or both there’s no denying that bullfighting offers one helluva show. Make the spectacle part of your next vacation to Mexico and judge for yourself.