Saturday, January 31, 2004

Sol y sombra

Torero - Ruven AfanadorTorero - Ruven Afanador

Ruven Afanador's photos of toreros from Colombia, Mexico, Perú, and Spain. Oh my, how very beautiful.

The first time I went to a bullfight, I was nervous and anxious. I had no desire to watch an animal suffer, but in the face of my mother's unwavering insistence that we experience all aspects of the cultures of the countries in which we lived, I silently capitulated. And few experiences in my life would compare to the astounding beauty and eroticism I saw that day. The matador was the most stunning creature I had ever seen: his costume reminded me of a peacock, and his back arched like a suspension bridge when he stood in front of the bull. I was afraid for him, and I resented the animal he challenged. The competition was extraordinary, and enthralled with their dance, I sobbed when the bull finally fell. I looked at the matador and he may as well have been glowing: not a piece of clothing ruffled, nor sweat or a drop of blood. He was perfection and calmness in the face of chaos. When they gave him the ears and tail - the ultimate reward for a good fight - I stood and cheered. I was 11 years old and so began a love affair that persists to this day.

In The Buried Mirror, Carlos Fuentes writes:

So the young matador is a prince of the people, a deadly prince who can kill only because he exposes himself to death. The bullfight is an opening to the possibility of death, and it is subject to a precise set of rules ... It is up to the matador to discover what sort of animal he has to contend with, in order to transform his meeting with him from a fact of nature into a ceremony, a ritual, a taming of the natural force. The bullfighter must first of all measure himself against the horns of the bull, see which way the bull charges, and then cross himself against the bull's horns ... This is done by the strategem of "breaking the bull's charge," cargar la suerte, which is at the heart of bullfighting ... By capework and footwork, the matador makes the bull change direction and go toward the field of battle chosen by the bullfighter; leg forward, hip bent, the matador summons the bull with the cape, bull and bullfighter moving together, achieving the perfect pase, the astonishing instant of a statuesque coupling, bull and fighter interlaced, entwined, giving each other the qualities of force, beauty and risk, in an image that seems at the same time immobile and dynamic. The mythic moment is restored: man and bull are once more, as in the labyrinth of Minos, the same.

(photo link via ashleyb)

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