The bullring or plaza de toros in Ronda, Andalucia

Bullfights and Bad Guys, Ronda’s Provocative Past

It’s not often that I take guest posts here at Ronda Today but I quite like this informative article written by Georgina Roake (the Library Lady) after her visit to Ronda.  At the bottom of this page you will find a link to her website and blog. Thanks Georgina! :)

“Ronda is one of Spain’s most popular travel destinations. Home to scores of stunning views and a famous bridge, it’s also known for its flamboyant past. Early inhabitants were a colorful bunch, with a large percentage of bandits, highwaymen, and bullfighters filling out the ranks. Many of these legendary men, and sometimes women, hailed from Serranía de Ronda and surrounding Andalusia.

Ronda hosts two museums devoted to these storied citizens. The Bullfight Museum, and the Museo del Bandolero – or Bandit Museum, each of which are surprisingly entertaining, and informative. (This is high praise indeed, coming from one who’s not ordinarily a museum fan!)

The Bullfight museum is located in the Plaza de Toros, Bullfight arena. Tour the arena first, then go downstairs where visitors to the museum will enjoy stepping out of the sweltering heat and immersing themselves in 18th century Spain’s bullfight culture. Here you get an in-depth look at the art and history of this often-controversial form of entertainment.

Bullfighting in Ronda, Andalusia
Bullfighting in Ronda

Matadors – Displays feature costumes once worn by legendary bullfighters, paintings, posters from long-ago bullfights and more. There’s also a collection of exquisitely crafted harness and livery, which belonged to 18th-century Spanish royalty.

But what really stands out are the stories of the bullfighters themselves. As with any extreme profession, these men had personalities to match. They could look raging, snorting death in the face without batting an eye, then charm the crowd of swooning senoritas who waited in the wings. One of the most famous bullfighters was Pedro Romero. Before his retirement at age 45, he was reputed to have fought 5,558 bulls without incurring any serious injuries.

Bullfighter to Bandit – Another notable character left his calling as a matador and became the famed bandolero, Tragabuches. Born José Ulloa, he was a proud gypsy who climbed out of poverty to become a leading bullfighter. He married the beautiful dancer Maria la Nena, and all was well until he came home unexpectedly to find her with a lover. Tregabuches threw his wife out the window and stabbed the would-be swain, killing them both. Whereupon he fled to the hills and joined a gang of bandits. While his companions were eventually caught and hanged, Tregabuches was never seen again. Perhaps because of his mysterious disappearance, he remains a favorite of the bandolero folk heroes.

bandoleros museum ronda
Bandoleros museum ronda – Photo Bruce Williams

To learn more about this unruly bunch, visitors can take a quick trip to the Bandit Museum.

Museo del Bandolero – In the late 19th century Spain was plagued by bandits and highway robbers. The root of this social problem lay in the abject poverty that many citizens endured. Employment options were few. If you wanted to put food on the table you could become a soldier, or if you were lucky, sign on with a wealthy lord. A more lucrative profession though was to hone your skill at relieving the rich of their riches, in other words – become a bandolero.

The bandolero museum chronicles the lives and legends of these shady citizens. Here you’ll see paintings and dioramas, along with ancient knives, pistols, and blunderbusses. Other displays feature histories and personal documents, as well as newspaper articles alternately calling for the capture of and protection for the gritty bandits.

While they were not sterling citizens, the press seemed to love these highwaymen. They were sensational. entertaining, and larger than life, but more importantly, their exploits sold papers. Since bandoleros delighted in attacking unpopular entities like tax collectors, they were often considered heroes of the common man and their crimes were romanticized.

While some of the bandits acted in a Robin Hood capacity, taking from the rich and giving to the poor, others were not as generous. They simply took from the rich and gave to themselves, but even they were admired for their daring and dash.

The bandolero museum chronicles the lives of some of Spain’s most infamous rebels, while giving visitors a glimpse into Ronda’s provocative past.

Bullfight Museum
Calle Virgen de la Paz, 15, 29400 Ronda, Málaga, Spain
Ticket Office Phone+(34) 952 874 132
Open throughout the year except on bullfighting days.
Hours 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Tickets: 8 euros / with audio guide 9.5 euros

Museo del Bandolero
Calle Armiñán, 65, 29400 Ronda, Málaga, Spain
Ticket Office Phone – (34) 952 877 785
From Monday to Friday and Sunday from 11 am. to 7.30 pm.
Saturday and bank holidays from 11 am. to 8 pm.
Tickets: Single 3.75 euros / Groups 2 Euros

Author details:  Georgina Roake – The Library Lady is a writer by trade, and a wanderer by nature who loves to combine the two activities whenever possible. Join her at: The Librarylady Travels.

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