Tag Archives: Bullring

Pedro Romero Feria & Corrida Goyesca – 22nd to 6th September 2015

The first week in September is the one time of year when Rondeños really let their hair down and everything comes to a stop for the week long party known as the Feria de Pedro Romero.

Although the weeks festivities start on the 22nd of August the big weekend of bullfighting and parades is the Friday 4th, Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th of September. (The parade of carriages at 12 pm on Sunday 6th)

IMPORTANT: If you want to stay in Ronda to experience the feria and all it has to offer then don’t delay in booking your hotel. Use the booking form to the right as soon as possible! Places will already be limited!

There is a full program of event (in Spanish) here and the dates of events are on page 45.

Tickets for bullfights and further information here…

Most of the streets surrounding the Plaza del Socorro become pedestrian only as bars bring their kegs and counters into the street for the hordes who want to party. The last two days of the feria coincide with one of the highlights of the Spanish bullfighting calendar, the Corrida Goyesca. Continue reading Pedro Romero Feria & Corrida Goyesca – 22nd to 6th September 2015

“Las Enganches” Horse and Carriage Show – Goyesca Ronda

Every year, usually on the Sunday morning following the big Corrida, the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda and the Real Club de Enganches de Andalucía hold a competition to pick the best horse and carriage.

The prizes aren’t significant, no more than a few hundred Euros, but the honour of being awarded the Champion of Champions Trophy at this event far outweighs any other prize on offer at the other provincial Ferías.

Several classes of carriage are judged, starting with single horse carriages, all the way to six horse teams arranged three across. Carriages fall into two and four wheel classes, covered and uncovered, and are usually in immaculate condition. Carriage owners take great pride in the appearance of their carriages, the horses, harnesses, and of course themselves. Click the “continue reading” to see images and video of the horse and carriage show. Continue reading “Las Enganches” Horse and Carriage Show – Goyesca Ronda

Is the Spanish Bullfight Dying?

“¡Abolición!” shouted the banners and placards. Abolition! Adorned with drawings of youths on all fours with barbs in their backs spurting blood they were held aloft by about thirty protesters on the Tajo Bridge in Ronda, fifty kilometres from Marbella in eastern Spain.

“Abolish the Bullfight”, they cried with Ronda’s most important fight of the year beginning in a few hours. The protesters, mostly young Spaniards, were watched by a squad of Riot Police and bemused passers by.

‘Is the bullfight dying?” I asked Paco, a regular in the Bar Maestro, a small place, serving some of the best tapas in town. Named after Antonio Ordóñez, a native son, and many say, the greatest matador ever, his loyal admirers foregathered there with other aficionados of the bulls.

‘No, the bullfight is not dying,’ said Paco banging down his glass on the counter. ‘You cannot get a ticket for the corrida this afternoon, did you know that?’ Paco glared at me and muttered under his breath. I was mortified. How could I re-establish my bona fides with this much respected man?

‘I was fortunate to see el Maestro fighting five times in the 60’s,’ I said. He looked sideways at me. Other heads nodded, voices approved. But Paco raised his glass to some memory of is own.

‘Read “Vanguardia’s” report,’ one called Pepe said quietly, ‘72% of Spaniards has no interest.’

The figures were dramatic. Over the past thirty years interest in the bullfight has fallen from a high of 55% in 1971 to 46% in 1980 to today’s figure of 28%.

Then Rafa, the owner, made a joke which I think went like this: ‘What do the bulls in Pamplona pray for before the Running?’

‘Please Lord, let me catch a gringo.’ Even Paco laughed at that. Paqui, Rafa’s wife brought out small dishes of paella. Good humour, never far away, was restored. I was honoured to be included by these aficionados.

“Death in the Afternoon”, Hemingway’s classic on the bullfight, introduced many of us to it.  This ritual of danger and death, bull running or fighting is central to most annual ferias in towns, villages and cities throughout Spain. Pamplona in July, Ronda in September and Seville at Easter are the most popular.

This year in Ronda the annual September shindig was in full exuberant swing, the town in an uproar.  Crowds milled about; flamenco and the whirling, laughing music of the Sevillana dance blared from temporary and ear-splitting loudspeakers outside the bars. Girls and women of all ages twirled, arms twisting sensuously, fingers coiling, heads thrown back, in dramatic pose. Men and boys clapped the rhythm, shouting ‘¡Olés!’.

Goyesca Ladies en route to the Plaza de Toros
Goyesca Ladies en route to the Plaza de Toros

Ronda, the birth place of the modern bullfight, celebrates the Goyescas, a festival of bullfighting so called as the participants parade in the garb of Goya’s era two centuries ago. Horse drawn carriages with decorous young girls in colourful finery, process through the streets.  Men and youths in the Andalusian style of tight trousers, waistcoats and Córdoba hats stalk about on tall horses before the fights begin.

About the bullfight, V.S.Pritchett, in “The Spanish Temper” wrote: “The Spaniard never lacks the courage to make the heroic gesture.  The bull is admired, almost worshipped, as the horse is in Ireland.  He is admired because he is great and capable of fury, and the Spaniard requires that furious force against which to display his singularity – the most precious of his possessions – and his courage.  Always the extremist, he likes to test his valour and his whole personality to the utmost.”

‘The bullfight is not a sport,’ said our friend Bosco back in the bar, ‘because the outcome is foreseen. It is a ritual,’ he added, believers eyes shining. ‘Primitive, pagan, maybe barbaric. ‘But,’ he concluded, ‘At no stage in the fight is it the object to inflict pain, although it is inflicted.’

Like reading Macbeth before going to the theatre, an understanding of the bullfight beforehand enables one to comprehend if not approve.  Sadly many of them descend into a crude despatch of the animal, the bullfighter being booed by the crowd. But if one experiences, as I did, the gut wrenching, frightening emotion of a great matador’s performance, as Ordóñez delivered to spellbound audiences it will remain etched in one’s mind forever.

Cayetano's Armani Suit
Cayetano's Armani Suit

It costs over €100 000 to stage a corrida with a top matador’s name. They command huge fees and have expensive lifestyles. Cayetano Rivera Ordóñez, the Maestro’s grandson, appeared this year in a Suit of Lights, as their costume is called, made by Armani. A whiff of decadence, a foretaste of the fall?

The rivals for the public’s Euros are football and basketball. Spain are the current European Champions in both sports. Tennis and golf have attractive role models also.

Nobody in the bar had been prepared to challenge Paco. But the newspaper’s figures would not leave us. None of us was under fifty-five.  And so it is throughout Spain. The corrida is dying with its ageing followers. No doubt in the midst of the recession, they were thinking of the over 100,000 people employed in the industry and the turnover of 1, 5 billion Euros a year.

Despite the two thousand year old tradition going back to Roman times, leading opponents of bullfighting recently took their cause to the Spanish parliament demanding an end to it. Parliament is currently debating a draft law on animal rights. How bullfighting will escape such a charter I do not know. The League Against Cruel Sports is increasingly active. The Spanish public broadcaster, TVE, announced that it will no longer broadcast corridas. Two years ago, Barcelona declared itself an “anti- bullfighting city”. The closure of the last bullring in Catalonia highlights its political ‘independence from Madrid’.

Protestors in Ronda 2009
However, in Madrid and the southern province of Andalusia the plazas are often filled to capacity. Bull fighting is deeply rooted in Andalusia. Like everything else the Andalusians do they do it with passion. It’s as though they had the caps lock key permanently in the ‘on’ position, the stereo at its loudest. It is in this intense, emphatic and above all passionate atmosphere that los toros, the bullfights, persist, its great exponents revered.

But the inevitable is coming. There will be more protesters. Just as Picasso and Hemmingway supported the bullfight, new names will support the Abolitionists.

My wife, Verne, unsympathetic to the corrida, asked the inevitable question. ‘12,000 bulls a year die in 2000 corridas?’ I replied. ‘And as many as 100 men are killed.’ Her silence said it all. ‘But,’ I said, ‘expect marketing innovations. 100,000 jobs will be defended.’

I see in my mind’s eye a dusty road in Spain trodden by a gaunt figure in rusty armour on a spindly steed followed by a podgy fellow astride a donkey.  One almost sees the white sails of windmills that will surely attract the attention of that wandering knight. For it is none other than my demented hero, Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza.  Is it the youngsters on the bridge who are tilting at windmills in the battle of the bulls? Or Paco in the Bar Maestro?

The Author:

Article written by Bearnard O’Riain, a published author who has written an autobiography ‘Running to Stand Still‘, an account of his years as an angry and abusive husband. These days Bearnard runs the MURAL support group which helps other men recover from abusing their spouses and families in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, including the infamous Alexandra township.

An Expat’s Memories of Meeting Antonio Ordoñez

‘Apart from the fiesta, why do you want to go to Ronda?’ Verne, my wife, asked.

‘Because it’s got the oldest bullring in Spain, and it’s right off the beaten track.’ I said.

And something else. Since seeing him in bullfights thirty years ago I had dreamed of meeting Antonio Ordóñez, one of the greatest matadors, known as El Maestro. He lived in Ronda. We were coming from Morocco to Granada to see the Alhambra. We didn’t get there.

Forty-nine kilometres from Marbella and the glitz of the Costa del Sol, in the mountains, Ronda perches on a cliff top. Moorish battlements rose above us as we approached. The horseshoe-shaped gateway heightened the impression of entering a North African Medina.

‘I love this vibe,’ said Verne, as we mingled with the locals and peered into the cafés and bars full of shouting Andalusians, regarded by the rest of Spain as being loco, crazy.  The aromas of garlic, olive oil, cigars and wine pervaded the streets.
There was an extra buzz as the annual September feria, or fiesta, was about to begin.

Next day, flamenco from loudspeakers, shouting children and laughing voices got us out of bed. Street parties were in full swing. Two women grabbed Verne and they danced the sevillana, the one with the twirls and hand-clapping. We staggered out of the throng and on to the next for there was no escape at a feria.

At times we were overwhelmed – the noise, the music and our difficulty in understanding the local dialect. But they loved us for trying, plied us with wine, and would not allow us to buy a round. Bars were havens but a bar in Spain can crackle into overdrive with a suddenness that takes your breath away. A couple of guys or girls can take to the floor, heels stamp, hands clap, the air rent with ‘olés!’ and the music can wake the dead.

On day two, the bold Verne asked, ‘Why don’t we buy a place here?’

It was more a statement than a question. Within days, an agent had found us an apartment built on centuries old battlements, looking over a valley at distant mountains. Verne had fallen in love. And I had not forgotten Ordóñez. I told Verne about my hero.

‘We might see him, even meet him,’ said I, with a touch of veneration in my voice. ‘He’ll surely be here for the feria.’
‘That’s a long shot,’ said the ever-practical wife. But we lads are the romantics. We can dream of meeting an icon. We asked around.

Antonio Ordóñez and Beranard O'Riain
Antonio Ordóñez and Beranard O'Riain
‘El Maestro? he was here, he comes and goes,’ we were told.

The Bar Maestro was his favourite spot and named after him. I peered inside, inhaling scents of garlic and wine . It was full of joking, laughing gesticulating men and women having their lunchtime tapas and drinks. ‘Not a chance of seeing him in there, ‘I said, ‘we’ll sit outside and wait.’

Slowly the bar emptied as it was the time of siesta. A few figures remained. I peered into the cave-like interior.

‘It’s him!’ I whispered, ‘I think…’ I dithered like a schoolboy going for his first autograph. This was the great man, a national hero, decorated by the King of Spain and a legend in Ronda – if it was him.

I stepped inside. He turned, cigar in hand, and smiled.

‘Are you El Maestro, Antonio Ordóñez?’

‘I am,’ he said grinning, ‘and who are you?’

‘A South African Irish fan,’ I said, ‘I saw you fight in Alicante in 1959’.

‘¡No me digas!’ ‘You don’t tell me,’ he said, shaking my hand.

‘I saw you fight in Pamplona four times and I’ve read Hemingway’s last book, the one about you.’ He laughed with pleasure, introduced his wife and friend Bosco. On being presented to Verne, he bent low over her hand, kissed it and asked how she was enjoying Ronda. As she replied he appraised her with a rogue’s eyes. Verne, ever aware, responded to this gallantry with modesty. He turned again to his awe struck fan. Wine flowed and our Spanish improved with every glass.

‘Would you like to stand with Bosco and me at the ring-side during tomorrow’s fight?’ he asked me. ‘It will be an honour,’ I said in disbelief.

As we left I said in my wife’s ear, ‘He must have been a good looking man,’

‘Still is,’ she breathed, more enthusiastically than was necessary, I thought.  I walked away in a daze that was Ordóñez induced as much as the wine, mission accomplished.

Next day men and women splendid in the dress of Goya’s era, two centuries ago, paraded around the town on superb horses and in carriages before the fights began.  The occasion was a sell out, people coming from all over Spain and beyond.  For El Maestro’s promising grandson, Francisco, was fighting. Bosco bought the tickets.

My wife was not as keen as I. ‘It’s a cruel sport,’ she said.

‘Pardon me Verne but it is not a sport,’ said our friend, ‘because we know how it will end. It is a ritual, primitive, pagan, yes. Man against nature, the bull,’ he said. ‘Death is at the end for one of them.’ We listened with attention.

‘We Spanish people admire courage. In the corrida, the bullfight, we can see it in a brave bull and a valiant torero,’ he said. ‘Let us hope for an emotional experience now,’ he smiled.

That afternoon Francisco upheld the family name with honour.

Two ears were cut for him from the dead animals in recognition of his elegance and bravery. He killed both his bulls cleanly and well.

Crowds milled about after the spectacle was over, aficionados and tourists, hoping for a glimpse of the matadors. ‘Find Antoñín and there will be El Maestro,’ said Bosco.

Perhaps Ordóñez’s greatest disciple is Antoñín. He is a mongoloid with the characteristic weak eyesight and obesity of Downs Syndrome. Every workaday morning he walks to the bullring, being greeted by all that know him, which is almost everybody.  He shows visiting Spanish speakers around the museum of bullfighting. He is said to have gracia, a gift of gentle people, deeper than that other untranslatable word, simpatico, an innocence, a kindness. Lunch is at the Bar Maestro.

One day a journalist, looking for an argument as they sometimes do, spoke up in the bar in disrespectful terms of the great man. The gentle admirer asked him once to stop. He didn’t. Antoñín slapped him in the face. Pandemonium. The scribe apologised profusely. The whole town knew and the local paper carried the story. They loved Antoñín the more for it.

We found El Maestro where the dead animals are cut up and distributed to various charities.

Ordóñez ordered an ear cut from a bull and handed it to me, washed and clean.

‘Wrap it in salt and keep it in the freezer for two weeks,’ he smiled. ‘Un recuerdo de Ronda.’ A souvenir of Ronda.
‘Keep that thing out of my fridge,’ whispered Verne. Bosco took it. In a parody of the Spanish welcome ‘My house is your house’ he said, ‘My fridge is your fridge,’ and winked.

Days later as we waved goodbye to Bosco, Verne said,‘That was better than the Alhambra.’

The Author:

Article written by Bearnard O’Riain, a published author who has written an autobiography ‘Running to Stand Still‘, an account of his years as an angry and abusive husband. These days Bearnard runs the MURAL support group which helps other men recover from abusing their spouses and families in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, including the infamous Alexandra township.