Death in the Afternoon

Between Two Anniversaries is a new reportage project focusing on contemporary Mexico in its 200th year. Together with journalist Matthew Clayfield, I’ll be retracing the routes of independence and revolution over the next eight weeks, publishing bites from the journey to this blog and later — we hope — in a new book for publication in 2011.

This first entry looks at the last bullfight of the season at the Plaza de toros México in Mexico City.

The bull makes it entrance. Constructed in 1947 with a capacity of 48,000, the Plaza de toros México is the largest bullring in the world.

Enter the bull. Constructed in 1947 with a capacity of 48,000, the Plaza de toros México is the largest bullring in the world.

Charge/Dodge

Charge/dodge. Banned in most of the world, blood sports are on the decline through Latin America and bullfighting is no exception.

The matador's dance of deception.

The matador's dance of deception.

Size up.

Size up, stare down.

Moving targets and false doors.

Moving targets and false doors.

Ice pop intermission.

Ice pop intermission.

Decoy.

Decoy.

Left to right, legs down, legs up.

Left to right, legs down, legs up.

The bull prepares to charge.

The bull prepares to charge.

Harpoons/horns

Harpoons/horns.

Speed and the space between.

Speed and the space between.

Prepare the matador.

Prepare the matador.

Twin stories of determination and blood loss.

Rival stories of determination and blood loss.

Stare

Stare.

Red fabric carrot.

Fabric carrot.

Red handed swordplay.

Red handed swordplay.

Kill shot.

Kill shot.

Victorious after the battle, the matador clenches his trophies: the ears of his opponent.

Victorious, the matador clutches his trophies: the severed ears of his opponent.

Clean-up part I: ring level.

Clean-up part I: pit level.

Clean-up part II: bleachers.

Clean-up part II: street level.

Later, in the bullfighting press, the sixth and final bull, Amigo, was made out to be very good, very noble, with only one or two writers bothering to recall that he had started out poorly and that the crowd had called for his replacement. They also failed to note that Lorenzo, trying hard to entertain the audience after a pedestrian and uninspired beginning, worked the bull one series too many and had to kill him after three lacklustre final passes. Again the crowd was crying out, this time urging the twenty-year-old matador to kill the bull already, to come on, get it over with, he’s no good anymore, this is ridiculous. Lorenzo received two ears for his efforts, but only after one very vocal section of the crowd, his family and friends, protested the judge’s initial decision to award him only one. One, of course, was all he actually deserved. And by seven o’clock the season was over.

Author

Austin Andrews and Matthew Clayfield are the co-editors of Disposable Words. They have collaborated on a number of film and journalism projects.

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