The sun is relentless. In the dry summer heat, you find your way to the ticket line. The wait is well worth it, for not only do you buy a ticket for that day’s bullfights, but you’re helped by a gorgeous woman. In broken Spanish, you manage to buy a ticket in the sombra. Then you enter the stadium.
It’s immediately clear that you are seated among aficionados. People who, as Hemingway described, have real aficion (passion) for bullfighting. Many are old. Some smoke cigarettes or snack from plastic bags they carry with them. Nearly all settle down on their own portable seat cushions. They chat in gravelly Spanish and gesture toward the ring, the sand of which has been smoothed in a circular pattern and glows in the sun.
Over several hours, you soak in centuries of tradition, pageantry, brutality, horror, and even grace. While fleeting, and perhaps imperceptible to some, it is the latter that is most captivating.