While Pamplona gets the world’s attention for a running of the bulls, there are corners of the world where the afición for the contest between human and beast lives on all summer.
And, American travelers will be looking for new places to enjoy bullfights. One of the closest and most colorful is the island of Terceira in the Azores (Portugal) where 230+ traditional bullfights are held each year. Terceira is about 2,000 miles off the East Coast of the United States. And, on Terceira as in all of Portugal, the bull is never killed.
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 village, or along the seafront. 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.
Sometimes, in the larger towns such as Angra de Heroísmo, a Portuguese equestrian bullfight will follow in the arena. The Portuguese bullfight is, at first glance, quite simple. A caveleiro, or rider, dressed in a silk jacket embroidered with gold and lace, tan riding pants and black boots, takes to the arena atop a Lusitano breed of horse. The goal of man and horse in a Portuguese bullfight is not to kill the bull, but to draw the bull to a charge and then to place a single dart in the bull’s back muscle. The horse and bull must charge at each other, with the horse suddenly veering off to avoid an impact. Then the rider must place the “ferro” colorful dart exactly and ride off unscathed.
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 from New England. Because of its location, Terceira was a very important harbor in centuries past, and the main city of Angra do Heroísmo prospered with international trade. Today, Terceira and Angra are UNESCO World Heritage Sites with well-preserved streets and monuments. Set on a bay, the city is a wonderful mix of the cosmopolitan and the traditional. Angra is a lively city full of culture and great shopping. The island has everything from a wild interior, to coastal tidal pools to swim in, to excellent wineries. Terceira is also known for its beef stews, seafood, and bread. The islands have a year-round mild climate (between 57 F and 71 F).