hidden europe 19

Doomed to die

by John Mead


La corrida (bullfighting) is as much a part of Andalucian culture as tapas and flamenco. Like it or not, bullfighting is in no rush to disappear. John Mead recounts a tale of life and death from Baza in southern Spain.

A dark bank of threatening cloud hangs over the empty bullring at Baza, a sleepy Andalucian town northeast of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

High at the back of the Plaza de Toros, an ancient amphitheatre, the scene before me is full of the tension that always precedes la corrida - the bullfight. I have a nervous knot in my stomach, and a can of San Miguel in my hand.

To my left, an elderly couple sit snug beside one another and share a basket of bread, olives and red wine. To my right, a young couple laugh as their children charge and clamber around the concrete terraces, acting in turn as the bull and the matador. Gazing around the audience, I can see similar scenes playing themselves out in anticipation of the main event. I take a swig of lukewarm lager, and wait.

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