If you think that bullfighting is just some guy in a skin-tight suit trying to stab a bull with his sword, think again. What makes the "Tourada a Antiga Portuguesa" (The bullfight of old Portugal) special? Here is a quick overview:
By law, the bull is not killed in Portugal. The bull is fought on horseback, with the "Cavaleiro" or bullfighter dressed in an ornate 18th century riding outfit. In the end, the bull is escorted for the arena.. Today, bullfighting is far from universally popular in Portugal, but in the bullrings of smaller towns and cities in the Alentejo and Ribatejo areas, it remains a vital part of traditional culture.
Bullfighting season starts around Easter each year, so we thought we would share the real fun of the Portuguese bullring--the people.
The bullring or "praça de toiros" has two seating sections--sol and sombra, or sun and shade. In smaller arenas in bull country, the spectacle starts before sundown, so those in the know pay a little more to be in the shady part of the ring.
If you find yourself in Santarém, Chamusca, or Montemor-o-Novo, head for the bullring in the late afternoon, buy a sombra seat, and sit next to a gentleman in a grey vest, broad hat, and noticeable sideburns. Offer him a beer or two. The adventure for the visitor is in sitting among these locals, drinking cold beers, eating some sesame candies, and debating with them as they debate and discuss the sport. It might be said that the debate is as much a part of bullfighting as the sport itself. Join in or just listen as your fellow spectators argue about bullfighters of the past, the advent of women as bullfighters, the Euro, when they last had a summer so hot…you get the picture. The idea is mostly to take a position and stick to it to the bitter end. The debate is friendly, cathartic, and, most of all, nostalgic.
Come for the color, the pageantry, and a chance to see a colorful past come to life. Oh, don't forget: Music is a reward from the public to a cavaleiro who is doing a good job. If things are going well, feel free to whistle at the top of your lungs and shout “Música, pa, Música!!
It is as if you could be in any time from 1830 to the present, but just one place… Portugal.