Saturday, March 21, 2009
Las Fallas, Day 1 - Mascleta and Bull Fighting
Scott, Dee, Suzanne and I rolled into the Valencia train station and headed straight to the Ayunamiento for the Mascleta (firecracker spectacle). The crowds were already piled high in the streets and we didn't make it very far before having to stop and see it from afar. However, the weather was warm, the skies were clear and we were in high spirits. When the Mascleta went off, there was a huge roar from the crowd, but overall our first experience was somewhat underwhelming because we were too far away to feel and hear the full effect of over 60 kg of explosives. So after checking into our hotel and grabbing a quick bite to eat, we walked back through the town towards our first event, a real bullfight at the Plaza de Torros. Now first a bit of commentary on bullfighting. While there are certainly many passionate arguments for and against this spectacle, Suzanne and I don't really have a strong opinion either way, and we treated this simply as an opportunity to experience a distinctively Spanish tradition. So we went in with an open mind and perhaps a slightly morbid curiosity. We met Vincent, Nancy and Chally there and Vincent gave us a great overview of how it was all to play out, from the initial viewing of the bull in action, the picadors, the bandilleros to the final act alone with the matador. There were three matadors that day - Julio Aparicio, Alejando Talavante, and Daniel Luque, all of whom would be fighting two bulls. I was surprised at how small the bullring was, but the simple understated decor of the bullring was offset by the spectacularly colorful and glistening uniforms of the matadors and their support team. For me, I experienced a very wide range of emotions while watching this - at some times very disturbed and queasy at the cruelty and perversion, yet at other times awestruck at the beauty, pageantry and grace of the matadors in a cautious dance with these incredibly powerful bulls. It certainly helped to have Vincent there to comment on the subtleties of each matadors' performance and strengths/weaknesses of each bull so we could appreciate the event more fully. I won't say I have now become a fan of bullfighting, but this was definitely an experience that I will never forget.