Travels with Grace: The Bullfight

Posted on September 10, 2019 by

This week’s entry for our 2019 #TravelTuesday series: Traveling with Grace, continues her trip through Mexico. Today’s post requires a content warning – below Grace describes the bullfight she attended and some readers may be disturbed by the imagery and discussion. To read more of Grace’s travels, click here.


Sun. July 14th. This morning at 10 we went to Xochimilcho (Land of Flowers). It was a beautiful ride and on the way we got a clear view of Papo and the sleeping Lady crowned with snow. They weave a fanciful Romeo and Juliette sort of legend around them. We see several of the leading moving picture studios of Mexico and several beautiful monuments including that to the Commoner President Obregón. At one place we saw a number of charros on horseback with wonderful tooled leather saddles, fancy bridles and embroidered felt sombreros. Also, a woman in a gorgeous sequin studded skirt who was queen[?] of something or other. Sunday is the day for weddings here and we passed several churches elaborately decorated with flowers. Outside the churches are side-walk markets where we saw food, dresses, underwear, pottery, linens and of course the usual baskets and bouquets. At Xochimilcho is another and much larger market of everything imaginable. (Here on Sunday women are washing in a public through.)

We boarded a little boat, a cross between a gondola and a skiff each with its own name picked out in flowers on the canopy and we sat on little rush bottomed chairs for the trip up the lagoon, one of the most unusual things I have ever seen. The boats are pushed with a pole by the boatman who stands in the back and there are large and small ones, some holding as many as 20 people. Some still larger were power driven. The smaller ones could be rented by the hour or day and families bring their lunches and have long tables on board. There are boats with cameras to take your pictures, boats with soft drinks on ice, boats with all manner of edibles, boats full of musicians who serenade with native instruments and everywhere boats of flower venders with lovely corsages of orchids, gardenias, roses, pansies, sweet peas, carnations and many others filling the air with fragrances, others selling postcards and souvenirs. At the head of the lagoon on an island is a large and attractive looking restaurant for those preferring to eat on terra firma. There are little canals opening from the big lagoon where the boats turn in to park a while if they so desire. Altogether it is a most beguiling scene which I am sorry to leave.

We return to the Maria Cristina for a very good Sunday dinner and at 3:30 six of us, excluding a young man from Jacksonville with whom we got acquainted and who bought one of the block of tickets I had to get for a box, started out for the bull fight. The crowds of automobiles and pedestrians leading from all directions to the stadium reminded me of Preakness day at Pimlico only more so. The stands seat 50,000 and the arena is 160 ft. below street level. A band was playing as we entered (it was quite a feat to push me thru the gate) and the stands were about half filled. The crowds and multi-colored costumes look like a vast tapestry in perspective. At 4 promptly a black garbed man on a black horse comes out of a door and rides across the arena to the judges stand, sweeps off his hat, bows, then backs his horse in reverse across the arena. This is the signal for the show to begin.

Toreo de la Condesa. Via.

Three matadors in lovely gold and silver brocaded costumes, 2 picadors on padded mounts, and a variety of bandellerios, toreadors, etc. come out and parade around. They go in and when the arena is empty the bull comes out. The first 5 bulls were coal black, the 6th almost white. The toreadors wave pink capes, the cape work is one of the highlights, and make passes at the animal, then the picadors come up with their long spears and each is allowed to stick the bull 3 times. Then the bandellerios stick 2 bandelleros each into his neck and then the matador starts to work with his sword wrapped in a bright red scarf. It is very interesting to watch their foot work, quick and graceful. Sometimes they change swords several times and when they stick it in the wrong place which happens often the toreadors pull it out by catching the hilt in their capes.

Several times we saw the picadors unseated and the horses roll over when the bull charges them. The first matador was thrown and injured slightly. They put a patch over his eye. But he got up and continued thru 2 rounds. The third one was the best and the crowd cheered him wildly. He received many bouquets and cloaks which he threw back and handkerchiefs waved madly, a sign of high approval, but being a [noise???] the judges would not allow him an ear. At the end however he was borne out on the shoulders of a wildly cheering crowd. When the bull finally drops to his knees foaming at the mouth and covered with blood one of the toreadors gives him the coup de grace and then 3 mules, a gray between 2 blacks are brought out by boys in red suits who hook the carcass to the drag and the mules run like mad. Sometimes they are so frightened that they run around several times before the boys can get the gook on the bull. Before the last bull was speared many from the audience ran out into the arena and crowded around the matador and the others but did not seem to embarrass them.

Fortunately, although the skies were threatening all afternoon, it did not start to rain until after the 6th bull fight started, and we stuck it out till the last. Everybody started to throw their rented cushions into the arena, and it was a free-for-all. When I returned to the hotel one of the bellhops asked me how I liked the spectacle and on being told I enjoyed it very much he was overjoyed and said I was the first American he ever heard say this.


Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager


 

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