It has been a pretty typical week to be a Spaniard…just your average bull-fight and nationwide strike kind of week. Naturally, as an American I found it to be the exact opposite.
So I went to my first bull-fight on Saturday-first and LAST that is. I decided that I couldn’t live in Spain for four months without at least seeing what all the fuss is about, no matter how hard it would be to watch. I went into it with pretty gruesome expectations, and was not disappointed. There were six bulls (we only made it through two and a half…) and six different matadors. The beginning part was really interesting when the bull would chase all of the little sparkly suited men around the ring. The part I took issue with is the fact that it is not an actual “fight”. Without going into much detail, basically what happens is they tire out the bull by putting spears into his back, and then the matadors show off their stuff until the bull finally collapses and they kill it. It was very sad for me just because the bull gets so confused by all the people, and of course he never even has a chance. It is more of a show of how much more intelligent men are than bulls (surprise to me…) rather than any physical superiority (the bull would totally win in that category!). I am definitely not sorry I went to go see it though and I would say that anyone studying Spanish culture should. It was interesting to see how many little kids were in the crowd and realize that this is how the culture is raised and to them it’s just a way of life, not animal cruelty. Bull fighting is a dying tradition though and outlawed in Barcelona and a few other places in Spain. Even if it was hard to watch, I’m glad I got to experience it while I still could, and I’m even more glad that in the future fewer bulls will have to go through it.
The bullfight was the start of a festival for a holiday on Sunday in Andalucia, the province that Granada is in, called El Día de la Virgen. From what I understand, it actually has very little religious significance and is just a day to pay tribute to the “Virgin” of Andalucia. In Spain there is a very small sense of nationalism and a very strong sense of loyalty to the province you are from instead, and this holiday is an example. It was a fun day though because my entire Spanish family was in town, including the newest addition: four-month old Spanish-niece Carlota. We had a big family lunch of paella and torta de la virgen, which is basically chocolate deep dish pizza and how I think every lunch should end. There was also a huge parade and fireworks!
On Wednesday something even MORE foreign to me happened. The entire country went on strike. Sort of the wrong event to follow my comment about nationalism but its true. I even had the morning off of classes because my professor was participating. The strike was protesting a labor reform act and the socialist president who passed it. Almost all of the stores and businesses shut down for the day and there was a big demonstration in one of the plazas. I think it was even more heated in the larger cities of Spain, although it was interesting enough just to walk around and see all of the posters and closed stores. I also REALLY enjoyed the halt of the construction outside of my window on a day I could sleep in as long as I wanted :-)
Madrid this weekend!