365 Wow Places & Wisdom
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Wow Place #242: Bullfight, Seville, Spain

My wife: “How was your run this morning?”
Me: “Ugh. It felt like I’d never even jogged before.”

Although I appreciate the benefits I receive from my early-morning trots through the park, there have been days (over the last 11 years) when I just don’t have it going on. My legs are heavy. My chest is heaving. Sweat is rolling off my brow. On days like that, I just feel like quitting running and getting myself a dopamine milkshake. I mean, what’s the point of doing something that makes you feel crappy?

But then I remember what my Mother once told me about the cereal, Lucky Charms: “Just because you don’t like the marshmallows doesn’t mean you should throw away the whole bowl.”

Although I may have a bad day of running now and then, it doesn’t mean I need to toss away the activity entirely. Sometimes you just have to pick out what you don’t like about something (ie. bad running days) and enjoy the rest of the benefits.

Such is my mindset as I approach the “Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Sevilla,” which is a long way of saying “The Seville Bull Fight Arena.” Knowing what I know about myself, this is going to be a difficult experience. After all, I love animals. I hate violence. Don’t they torture bulls here? I mean, isn’t that the whole point?

So yes, coming in, I’m bracing myself for a bowl of Lucky Charms with a 12-ton marshmallow right in the center. What I discover upon entering the arena in Seville is something far more complex, more nuanced.

For one thing, the building itself is really beautiful. The largest and most important area for bullfighting in all of Spain, the Plaza de Toros was built in the 18th century and can accommodate up to 13,000 spectators. Its lovely Baroque façade, with its white-washed walls and red-and-yellow doors and portals, dates back to the 18th century. Every year during April, the arena hosts the largest bullfighting festival in the world. Outside the building you find statues of famous toreators, and a nearby Museum of Bullfighting.

In short, Seville’s bullfighting stadium is a cathedral of bullfighting—not a place to be taken lightly.

As for the fighting of the bulls itself, it’s – if anything – more brutal than anything I’d imagined. I won’t go into the details. However, the scene in the stands is thrilling, with fans yelling and cheering and singing and drinking and betting. At one point, an old, grizzled bullfighting enthusiast pulls out a giant magnum of whiskey, gestures to me with his Popeye eyes and broken-teeth smile, and offers me a dram. For a 20-year college student, this is about as exotic, risky and exciting as it gets!

So what to make of Seville’s Plaza de Toros? The marshmallow in the center is, indeed, substantial. Killing and torturing animals for sport is as bad as it gets in my book. But the arena, the scene and the atmosphere are all incredible. In spite of everything, I’m hesitant to throw out the entire bowl of Lucky Charms.

I guess the next time I go to a place like that, I’ll look for a seat that’s facing the stands and not the bulls.

(What’s your bowl of Lucky Charms? Is it a job, a friendship, a relationship? Did you toss it away because one sole aspect irked you? Well, you’re not alone. We’ve all done this. Life does offer us “deal breakers” on a regular basis. We do have to protect ourselves. We do have to avoid toxic people and toxic situations. However, in such situations, I think it’s worth slowing down and using our head as well as our heart. Is there ever a perfect condition, a perfect individual? Am I seeking an ideal that is unattainable in this flawed, flawed world? And if I must leave, before I go, is there something I can first learn about myself when it comes to this aversion to marshmallows?)