Saturday, March 6, 2010

One Day in Mexico....

Actually, this may have been Baja, not Mexico, but I was very young. I don't remember everything. We lived in California, on Vandenberg AFB, my parents my brother & I. My grandmother must have been visiting, but I remember that she was there. This was back before, or at the beginning of the 'hippie' movement, right about the time when "Hell's Angels" by Hunter S. Thompson was first published, before animal rights activists. Bull fights where spectacles of color & sound, events of interest, if not wonder, exotic & otherworldly. We drove South to the border, then took a taxi ride to the stadium. The city seemed big & filled with movement. The taxi was uncomfortable & the ride, through the streets of Tijuana was fast. There seemed to be no rules, when it came to driving, streetlights more guidelines than absolutes. Scary & exhilarating, it was difficult to know whether to keep your eyes open, so you might know if you where about to die or whether it was best to shut your eyes as tightly as possible, better off not knowing of your inevitable fate. I think I did both, one moment eyes shut & the next open, off & on until the ride was over. What I saw when my eyes where open was truly frightening & I tried to focus on the city, but my eyes would be drawn back to what was going on in the car & on the road, as if I could will it to stop. The stadium was, to me, more like a Roman coliseum, than a sports stadium. It wasn't finished & dust was everywhere. It was open & the surface was dirt, seats where wood. The bullfighters where all in traditional garb, those with more status wore fancier clothes & their bulls had fancier coverings.The bulls where covered in fancy garb, as well. The people yelled & cheered for their favorites, some even cheered for the bulls, if the fighter was not popular. Capes where flourished, fighters avoided being speared by bullhorns & bulls avoided being speared by the fighters, for the most part. I remember asking, when I saw a bull actually speared by a fighter, why they would do this. I thought that the object was just to avoid the bull, but there was more to it than that. Bulls weren't just covered for show, but to keep the crowd from seeing any blood caused by the spears.The more a fighter was able to get past the bulls defenses & score a blow, the higher in the rankings he would go. The day that we where there, no bulls died, though that did occasionally happen & no fighters died, though that, also, on occasion happens. I'm sure that I don't remember everything perfectly, I was very young. The traditions  & spectacle was fascinating to see, but my family & I left feeling bad for the animals. No, I didn't necessarily feel hatred for the bullfighters, this was their tradition, their job, they didn't see it in the same way as we did. This was something that had been carried through possibly centuries of tradition, from yet another time & continues, though not exactly in the same way, to today. I did feel a little odd about the crowd watching this event, the reason for spectacle to continue. This, though was their tradition. It would take a societal change to make a difference & that change, whether you might see it as good, bad or indifferent was, as they would say, "blowing in the wind..."

* The photo is my grandmother wearing a mantilla. I believe she is in front of a Catholic church in Tucson, AZ, though it's possible that this is in California. I'm not sure of the year. It doesn't say on the back. You can kind of get an idea of the time period from the cars.

7 comments:

Debbie in Nashville said...

What an interesting experience to have as a child. I don't know what would leave more of an impression; the car ride or the bull fighting?

Great writing, I felt like I was there!

Waterrose said...

Thanks for sharing that period of time. Whether right or wrong it is part of a culture.

samsstuff said...

Thanks Debbie & Waterrose.

Debbie: I think the taxi ride ride might have been the most traumatic part of the experience. It felt like our lives where in peril the entire time. Never take a taxi in Tijuana! Maybe it's changed over the years.

The bullfighting was a part of the culture & not thought of the same way as we might think of it now. It was kind of a part of machismo. Hemingway was a fan & his works influenced how people thought of the process in the fifties & sixties. The part that was truly harmful to the animal was not really visible (so not as traumatizing as the taxi ride, which, when my eyes where open was highly visible) & this, I believe is the part that has changed in more recent years, where it has become more of a dodging game, without the actual spears. The bullfighters, unlike the bulls, take part by choice, though if something where to happen, it would be pretty traumatic to watch.

Eileen said...

Ahhh, you're an Air Force kid! Me, too! :) I lived in Lompoc after my Dad retired...don't ask me how old I am ;)! We traveled mostly to Japan and Okinawa.

Writing Without Periods! said...

What an interesting picture, post. I'm Air Force too. Lots of memories.
mary

Neky White said...

I don't like bullfighting ¡_¡ I don't hate the bullfighters but I simply can't understand why people likes this "spectacle"! and there's so many people whom thinks like this. Sadly (or luckily) that tradition is not ours, it came from Spain, in the "colonia" age.u_u

oh! and the thing you said about the taxi experience, is all true and remains until now. Sometimes I think I'm in six flags but more dangerous and more adrenali-nicious, jejeje ^^

Life with Kaishon said...

Your grandmother was beautiful. What a wonderful image. I love it. Great post. Grandparents are such a special part of our lives. I miss mine so much!