Ex Pats: A bit of a bullfight out in the Algarve
Sep 9 2009 by Graham Denby
Graham Denby and his wife Ruth found a patch of land in the Alentejo, the rural area above the popular holiday region the Algarve, Portugal, in October, 2004. Less than two years later they had moved into a new house built on a plot occupied by a derelict farmhouse. They have holiday accommodation and horses, and Graham has been writing a progress report for the Examiner since last autumn.
AUGUST in Portugal, in line with almost the whole of Europe (barring the UK), shuts down as it is the traditional holiday time.
You know the sort of thing, kids in the supermarket rushing back to their parents clutching chocolates/ ice-creams/toys, the council bins overflowing from neglect, the roads quite a bit busier through the day – sometimes we get as many as three or four cars an hour down our track!.
One of the big holiday attractions in nearly all the towns is the bull fighting. Some towns have their own arena and ours, like many of the smaller towns, Santana da Serra, has a ‘mobile bull-ring’. The event is publicised a few weeks beforehand and is keenly anticipated by the locals.
The arena is set up on top of a hill to the south of the village behind the local bakery (padaria), well situated for catering for the event, though maybe an abattoir would be more appropriate ...
The arena is a miniature of the huge ones you have seen on TV, those in the big cities in Spain I guess, but the seating is less than Barker and Stonehouse, and a cushion is well worth bringing ‘cos the planks are hard!
There are a number of differences in the event in Portugal as opposed to Spain. The main one, from the bulls’ point of view, is that it isn’t killed, at least in the ring. Also the main men are Toreadors (remember Tommy?) as opposed to the Spanish Matador (killer – literally) and can be on horseback or on foot. They still use the spear stickers, which are all rather messy, and the poor old bull leaks all over the shop!
The horses are all highly trained and flighty (hot-blooded) but I suppose I would be if half a ton of T-bone steak was trying to tup me, not to mention the wicked looking spurs the riders wear!
The poor old bull is handicapped as his horns are ‘holstered’ – gloved in leather wraps. The horses and riders do a few circuits and tricks around the arena for the crowd before the start, a sort of pre-match kickabout.