Thursday, January 22, 2009

Raging Bull

Our flight from Oaxcana arrived in Mexico City (MC) at 9:00am. On route to collect our luggage at the airport we met Miriam a 50 something academic from Washington DC who specialises in Yiddish culture. Miriam was keen to share a taxi with us to the center of town and we were more than happy to oblige.

Miriam was in town to give a paper at a conference on Yiddish language and surprised me by calling a Mexican airport offical a 'mother fucker' for his poor directions to baggage claim.

After we lost Miriam we checked into the Palace Hotel-please dont let the name be deceiving. It is a gorgeous colonial building in the heart of the Centro Historic District, it is also very run down, shabby but home to the hottest shower we'd had so far.

We were keen to make the most of Ra's 2 days in MC and with no time to spare we jumped into a registered cab (apparently it is too dangerous to hail one from the street). First stop was Plaza Mexico- the world's largest bull fighting arena. On the bill was Jose Thomas one of Spain's best Matidors followed by home town hero Arturo and the new kid on the block Octavio (who was making his debut).

With tickets secured via the help of some scalpers we jumped a cab and headed to Frida Khalo's blue house.

The house is a pilgrimage site for art lovers the world lover. It is located in trendy outer suburb Coyacan and painted thew most vibrant cobalt blue ever created. The house was Frida's childhood home and later the place she shared with her husband legendry artist Diego Rivera and where Leon Trotsky sought refuge.

At the entrace there is a nice coutyard with a pretty garden and bright sunshine yellow chairs decorating white formica tables.

Unfortunatley the inside of the gallery is a little dissapointing. Instead of being a celebration of Frida it is just another showcase for her domineering and more famous (in Mexico) husband Diego's work.

It seems that both in life and in death Frida is defined by her relationship to one of Mexico's best loved sons. In a purely subjective sense i do like Diego's work, it does not challege in the way the Frida's does... he uses a cheery pallete to get his messgae across...

After a couple of hours we caught a cab back to the bull fight- both beaming to be at such an event with 50,000 supporters at our side.

At 4:00pm sharp, 3 men on horses enter the areana, followed by a rainbow if Matadors and their assistents. After a quick parade around the stadium (and to much ovation) the first (of six) bulls bursts into the arena. The bull seems agitated, agressive and huge (a whopper at 500 kilos).

The first stage of the fight is quite staged and exisits for comedic value to the viewers, it consists of the matador's assistants taunting the bull with large pink and yellow capes. They work in teams of 2 and 3 in an attempt to confuse and irrate the bull whilst displaying their brightly coloured robes for our amusement.

Next the most brutal part happens, two men on heavily padded horses dressed like brightly coloured knights enter the stadium each carrying large lances in their hands. The use the lance to stab the bull around the shoulder. The bull resists, goes biserk and tries to dismount the horse but it is obvious that both the horse and the knight have done this before.

Next the jokers enter again, this time with a more sinister look in the eye. Each are carrying 2 things in thier hands that look like 10 pin bowling ball pins which they use to stab the bull... the pins act as flags as to where the wound is.

It is pretty gory, the bull has blood running down it's back from a gaping wound behind it's head.

Finally after about 30 inutes of joking and ritual, the Matador enters the ring- dressed in a tight white sequined number, his buns look like rocks and he reminds me of a young, fit Elvis.

Red cape in hand- he has 16 mins to kill the bull. He utilises his skill to direct the bull around the ring and it looks like he is dancing, proud and peacocking.

The crowd applaud vigerously with chants of 'Olay' when he does something good. Ra and I cheer too- typicall aussie style with oi oi oi , woohooo etc and quickly are befriended by the two ladies sitting behind us.

Anna and Leonora, are lifelong torro fans and they explain the rules and the importance that the event has.

A quick scan around the ground confirms that all in attemndance are upper middle class dressed in the Sunday best. Tne afternoon proceeds in the same way- bull after bull until the last is slayed at 7:30pm. The man in black enters the ring only after the Matador has completed his final lunge(stabbing the bull behind the neck so it falls to the floor). The Man in black slits the bulls throat. Next a two horse drawn charriot enters and they attach the bull and drag it from the areana- if the bull is spirited and allowed a good fight it is cheered- if not the crowd boos.

The end.

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