BootsnAll Travel Network

Onward Not! Another day or two in San Cristobal

Thanks for all your public and private email comments on where I should end up going next.  I should be well on my way to my next destination at this time, but I have decided to stay another day longer here in San Cristobal, Mexico.  There can only be one thing that would change my plans to stay longer.  No, it isn’t because I’m sick.  (And yes, I am sick–not food poisoning sick, but the sore throat/hacking cough sick where it hurts to swallow and thus I can’t sleep at night).  And no, it’s not because of some Latina girl I met.  Nor is it that I’ve discovered some hardcore hiking tour through the outer reaches of the jungle.  Nope, it’s none of those.  The only reason why I am staying another day is because of the BEST reason to stay…AAA Lucha Libre!  What is that you ask??  Basically, it is Mexican style wrestling!  It is THE best wrestling out there because of the masks, gravity defying aerial moves and the good guys versus the bad guys.  I definitely have to check this out!

Coming to San Cristobal last week was a major hassle, especially at the border where I got ripped off on my money exchange and then had to scramble on figuring out the transportation.  It was an all day ordeal, and took about 12 hours total.  But it was all very much worth it.  San Cristobal is a favorite destination in Mexico for a lot of people, and it is easy to see why.

The celebrations for Holy Week (Semana Santa) also coincide with San Cristobal’s Feria Festival, aka Spring Festival.  It is a huge celebration with parades, music, special events, expositions and more.  They even have their own “Queen of Rosaria” like Portland’s Rose Festival, complete with midway and amusement rides.  There are people everywhere and the main plaza and parque central and always packed with people, walking vendors, food booths and so much more.  And with events happening everyday for the next week, what better way to celebrate Easter yesterday than with the traditional sport of bull fighting?

This was my first bullfight, I know of it and have seen some clips via Bugs Bunny cartoons and other shows.  So here’s the very quick rundown in layman’s terms, since I don’t know all the fancy tradition that goes with it or the terms and jargon that make up the sport.

So basically you have an outdoor circular arena, that in my estimate, holds about 5000-6000 people.  Last night’s card had a series of 6 or 7 bullfights, and it begins with all the matadors coming out to greet the crowd.



After they leave, they release the first bull into the ring, where it charges around and a team of secondary matadors (I don’t know what you call them, so I’ll call them the JV team) warms up the bull with their pink and yellow colored capes.  They each take an individual turn, as shown below.  This goes on for about 5 minutes or so.



When the matador has the bull do a successful pass under the cape, the crowd shouts “OLE!”  And if you happen to start chanting “Toro! Toro! Toro!” you will be quickly hushed (no, I didn’t do this, but there was a rowdy group just a section below me that tried that and the crowd turned on them pretty quickly).

After warms up, the horse-mounted spearman comes out to soften up the bull.  Not a pretty site…he comes up to the bull and basically plunges a long spear into the bull’s spine.  The bull won’t like this of course, so he’ll charge the horse.  I’m pretty sure that the horse has some protective plating underneath the costume, but just in case, there is always a secondary back-up horseman waiting on the opposite side.  In this picture below, the horseman struggles from keeping the bull from toppling him and the horse over.



Now that the bull has been softened up, the main matador comes in with his series of colored handspears.  He has one in each hand, taunts the bull, then charges the bull and at the last minute, strikes both into the bull’s back.  This happens for a total of 3 times, and the goal is to have all 6 handspears dangling from the back of the bull.  Is there blood?  Yep, it’s not a pretty site.  Here are some pics of what I have just described.


This matador begins his charge with his first set.



This pic is of a different match and different matador successfully spearing the bull.


After all 6 spears are in place (usually not though, some fall out), the matador takes his red cape and sword and makes the bull do the “Ole” thing for about 7-10 minutes.  The live music band is playing and the crowd cheers and shouts “Ole.” 




Finally, the matador signals for the band to stop playing the music.  The crowd goes silent and they shush anyone who is still making noise.  The matador changes his sword, and with the bull badly beaten, tired and bloodied, the matador makes his strike.  Ideally with one deep blow into the back, where the bull will stagger and fall.  To end the misery, the “death matador” comes out with his short dagger, and quickly plunges in into the mammal’s skull, where you see it quickly lose all movement and it falls to the earth lifeless.  No graphic pictures to show for this moment, I think you get the picture. 

Coming into the bullfight, I wasn’t quite sure of the whole killing thing.  It was pretty shocking to witness this the first few times, and of course you feel sorry for the bull.  At the same token, bullfighting has a very long and rich tradition in Mexico and Spain and I really can’t denounce this “sport” or join PETA in a protest.  However, I will say that this is probably the last bullfight I’ll attend, because when it comes down to it, I was bored after a little while.  But that’s just me.

So tonight I’m heading back to the El Toro arena for my wrestling, and then tomorrow it will probably be on to the Palenque Mayan ruins or maybe I’ll change my mind last minute and go to Oaxaca.  I just hope by tomorrow I’ll be over this nasty cough and sore throat, and that my headache will go away.  Check back on Wednesday where I hope to have pics posted of the San Critobal Holy Week Crucifixion march re-enactment, an annual event that the whole city turns out for.


3 responses to “Onward Not! Another day or two in San Cristobal”

  1. Joven says:

    Hey Edwin,

    It sure is fun browsing through your site. It’s like having a travel guide in exotic faraway places off the beaten path…

    Don’t try being amatador though, we want you back in one piece. Take care

  2. Did you see Tito Santana?

    Nice pics, man. Glad to see you’re having a great time. Hearing about the insects on your sheets as you woke up in your cabana was the greatest. I’ll bet you had them for breakfast, too, and you didn’t realize it.

    So one question for you about Spanish and this recent experience of yours in San Cristobal… what is the difference between a matador and a torero? or are they the same thing?

    Can’t wait to have you back bro. Miss you. -JOHN

  3. Download Who Not Me Ringtone…

    Hear the ringtone of the popular song: Download Who Not Me …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *