Back in 2001, I had the opportunity to travel to this fantastic country where breakfast would be cerveza (beer) and jamÃ³n (dry-cured Spanish ham) and where many restaurants don’t even open for dinner till 8pm.
The story has been recycled and slightly tweaked from a long time write-up posted on my photo-sharing site (webaperture) which I’m closing end of this year. I figured it was a good time again to dig through my old scanned archives, process them a bit differently and in Photoshop CS4 — I was using Photoshop 6.0 then! I shot about 6 rolls of film (gasp!) within the hour-long event. I would have shot more but light levels were dropping and I only had ISO100 left after exhausting all my ISO400 film! Shooting digital, I would have just jacked the ISO up! Film was Kodak Supra 100 and Supra 400 (I later switched to Kodak Portra series). Cameras & Lenses: EOS-30 with 70-200 f/2.8 with 2X teleconverter, resulting in a 140-400 f/5.6 lens and an EOS-50E with a 24-85 f/3.5-4.5 lens. This was before my big shift to transparency film (aka slides) such as Fuji’s super-saturated Velvia 50 and Kodakchromes (along with ekta and elitechromes).
The Iberian Peninsula forms a link of sorts between Europe and Africa and that makes it not only an interestingly unique country among Europe but one of the most culturally rich as well. Strategically located, it was invaded and visited by many, the Celts, the Phoenicans, the Greeks, the Romans, the Visigoths, and the Moors. It is also the home of the fierce Iberian bull. This also makes Spain such a historically rich country that one can be really confused where to start. I mean look at the depth of this country’s history and cultural roots. Many consider bullfighting as such an essential part to Spanish machismo. So one day, while we were stuffing ourselves with tapas and beer in Madrid, we decided that we’d watch a bullfight. Bullfighting would be quite an exciting start to our cultural tour of Spain since it is so much a part of Spain that almost everyone you meet will associate it with Spain although some Latin American countries also do it. Famous Spanish painters like Goya or Picasso have glorified it. If you drive around Spain, it’s unlikely that you’d miss these huge billboards in the shape of a bull.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Even if you’re against this event, I still think you should go watch one. The problem is, how do you go about watching a bullfight. I mean most Spanish cities have these huge bullfighting stadiums called Bull Rings, all of which probably hearkens back to the decadent days of the Roman Empire where slaves and gladiators fought each other and animals in such arenas. When I approached the first bull ring I saw in Seville, I saw this long winding line of people. What they were queuing up for was never apparent to me despite walking around the entire ring and looking lost. The signs were all in Spanish and I gave up — hey, these were the days before google, mobile internet! Now, you’d just pull up your iPhone and google translate it. Anyways, call me lucky or whatever but it just so happens that my Uncle was posted to Spain as an ambassador. I figure he’d we able to get me some tickets. What’s the use of being an ambassador if you can’t get tickets to a bullfight. Again, I was fortunate to be in Spain in April since the bullfighting seasons starts after Holy Week which ends with Easter Sunday in April and continues until August. Any other time, and it doesn’t matter who you know because you probably won’t get tickets. Anyhow, so I got my tickets.
A good friend of my Uncle’s, who is a true-blooded Spaniard commented:
“The bullfight is the essence of Spanish-ness and it’s good for you to see one.”
His lovely wife, with a not-so-strong-but-you-can-recognize-it welsh accent replied:
Obviously, she wasn’t Spanish by birth. He continued:
“It defines Spanish culture and who we are!”
But she wasn’t finished:
Oh well. I have a fight to catch. Click on the Entry to read more…