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Guide to Portuguese Bullfighting II

Fado and Bulls

So, what has this to do with the Fado? Well, in the 1830s Portugal was facing dark days. Still recovering fro the Napoleonic Wars, the nation became pulled apart by a civil war between brothers fighting for the crown.

In Lisbon, a unique rebirth started, were the nobility, artists, and commoners intermingled at bars, and took turns listening to an ancient song called the Fado. Out of these uncertain times came a women regarded as the greatest singer of Fado - ever, and whose name is celebrated in the Fado to this day. She is often called a gypsy, and a prostitute, and aside from a captivating voice, she is known for a passionate affair with the count of Vimioso. The woman was the great Maria Severa, and Vimioso was one of generation of young nobles who in the chaos of war, revived an ancient sport, that of the bull fight. But this rebirth came with new rules.

Fast-forward, the ties between Fado and the Tourada are strong today, with many a bullfight mixing with a concert of Fados, and the long tradition of going to a Fado house after the bullfight. Fado in the Ribatejo still sings of bulls and horses, and the Fados that tell the tales of the Last Royal Bullfight, and the love of Maria Severa and the Count of Vimioso live on.
Even the great Fadista, Amáila Rodrigues made two films about the bullfight.

An Equal Opportunity Sport

Since the beginning the Portuguese art of equestrian bullfighting has been an all-male art. Well, those days are now over as a host of young and talented female riders are performing in the finest bull rings in Portugal to win the hearts and imagination of the public. Dressed in traditional attire, women such as Ana Batista are now considered to be among the best of Portugal¹s new generation of bullfighters. Another is young Sonia Matias, who has taking the Portuguese sport to three continents. While bullfighting has declined in popularity, this injection of new blood has given life and interest to an ancient sport.


Want to be a Bullfighter?

On the wide river plains of south central Portugal, called Lezírias, bulls are raised to fight in the arena. To know the bull fight, one must know the bull ­ is it brave, cowardly, or a little bit of both. The rancher who raises bulls is called a ganadeiro ­ and at the Ganadaria Murteira Grave in Evora, established 1958,  one can enjoy bed and breakfast at  a real Portuguese bull farm, and meet the Iberian fighting bull. Yes, up close, with a good explanation of how the race of bulls began. And, how to understand what makes a bull good, bad or complicated in the arena. Beyond this crash course in the ancient art of the bull, taught by the people who raise them, the Ganadaria offers a museum of the past great bulls they have raised. And, they serve lunch to their guests, in the traditions of the local hospitality. All this on the outskirts of Evora, the charming capital of the Alentejo region.


Meet Pedro Santos Lima, former president of the Portuguese Bull Breeders Association, and the Portuguese cowboys, or campinos on his ranch in Ribatejo province, 20 miles north of Lisbon. After a welcome from them, they will take you on a tractor safari through the farm to meet the fierce Iberian fighting bulls face to face. Then, feast on a lunch of Portuguese specialties known only to the campinos. After lunch, learn the art of bull fighting from Pedro and take part in a mini bullfight with one of Pedro's baby bulls. Olé! 

Only the Brave: The Forcado


The bullfight is described below, but we wanted to s tart with the end, that is, what happen to the bull, when horse and rider depart the sands of the arena. In a traditions that dates back centuries, nine young men, bravely jump into the4 arena. These are the Moços de Forcados, or simply the Forcados, a group of amateurs who for the love of the bull fight put their well being on the line. There roe, is simple, based on eh days when they would project the king and court for bulls that might jump the fences to have a go at the  -spectators. The form a line, and step-by-step approach the bloodied bull. The lead man, the Pega, calls to the bull, his arms at his side. The man are member so if a local club, they train for the bullfight, and in a  typical bullfight two group will work three bulls each in the art of the Forcado. The lead man must throw himself around the neck of the charging bull, a horn under each arm, to start the process of the Pega ­ then one by one the other eight will jump on tot eh bull until the animal is brought to a halt ­ and the final man will grab the animal by the tail, and dig in his heals until the other run free to the boards around the arena. Done right, it will take a few minutes, but with a cautious bull, it can take up to dozen attempt, sending young forcados to the hospital in the process.

Sound like fun? Well, one of the oldest such groups Group de Forcados Amadores have a spring raining camp of sorts, to teach young forcados the art of the Pega. Held every spring at Santarem, the unofficial capitol of bullfighting in Portugal, the camp ism open to anyone brave enough to step in the arena. This group ha acted wound the world since their founding in 1915, and if you like, give them a call, and try your luck in spring trains with a big, black Iberian fighting bulls

Grupo de Forcados de Santarém Pedro Figueiredo "Graciosa"
Phone: 351  917263825 

 The running of the Bulls--- every day

In some places they run the bulls once a year. Every summer there are more than 230 traditional bullfights on the island of Terceira in the Azores.

From April to the late fall, the people of Terceira hold touradas á corda every weekend­ a unique running of the bulls, with the bull on a rope. It is found only in the Azores, and has been popular since 16th Century. The bull is let loose with a very long rope around its neck, usually at the main square in a small village. The bull is guided by several experienced, hefty men, keeping a tight grip at the rope. The idea is, that the courageous people will try to get as close to the bull as they dare. After the run, the bull is taken back to the wooden crate and an outdoor festival begins.

Terceira is part of the Azores, Europe's closest point to the United States. This chain of nine dramatic islands with volcanic mountains, seaside villages, and steaming geysers, is just four hours away. The islands have a year-round mild climate (between 57 F and 71 F).

Legend: Why The Bull Is Not Killed


An old Fado tells us that the trinity of Portuguese things is the Fado, Saudade and bullfight. To the "non-Portuguese" this may seem an odd statement ­ but as insider we will share with you the tale of the Last Royal Bullfight, subject of more than one Fado, and close the loop.

In the summer 1762 the king, D. Jose often spent time at his palace in Salvaterra de Magos, in the heart of horse and bull country. One day a royal contest was set for the Count of Arcos to take to the arena for the first time before the court.  Arcos was the young son of the man who had written the book on Portuguese bullfighting, the Marquis of Marialva. The venerable Marquis had taken the ancient rough and tumble sport and made it a refined and challenging contest between a rider and his horse, and an Iberian fighting bull.

But the young man would face a bull that would challenge him. The idea, his father said, was for bull and horse to face each other, and for the horse to call the bull. The two would charge each other, and the rider would pull the horse to one side, then quickly to the other, running parallel to the bulls horns. Then, the rider would place a sharp dart in the bull's back.

But the huge black bull Arcos faced refuse to charge, and the young noble in desperation rode too close to the animal, who them lurched forward, knocking over his mount. The king and court watched helplessly and in horror as the bull gores the young count. Then, suddenly Marquis of Marialva jumped into the arena and to the disbelief of the crowd fought the bull on foot in a macabre brilliance. 

From that day on the bullfight was banned in Portugal.

The art of horse riding is an integral part of Portuguese culture today.
With the oldest riding school, in Europe, and the riding tradition that pre-dates the Roman Empire, Portugal's art, poetry and life is often intermingled with the horse.

As then poet Félix Bermudes put it a century ago:

The lads today
Return to the boot and the spur.
With pride and spirit
They leave behind modern things
To find strength in their legs
For riding - ­ that is Portuguese!


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