An invite by email, an obvious ‘yes’ in reply, and we were off to the countryside outside of Seville for a visit to Hípica Pedro Macías in the village of San José de la Rinconada.
Bulls, bullfighters, horses, food, drink, and more. We were in for an obvious treat, despite being a bit skeptical of the whole – traditional yet controversial – bullfighting thing.
At this point, I add a disclaimer about bullfighting. We have absolutely no desire to watch an actual bullfight, for all the obvious reasons that make people furious with righteous indignation. Much of that is obviously warranted, but a lot of it is also misunderstood.
I don’t want to and will not get into that discussion in this blog post. We did not go to a bullfight, and you will not see any of that here. I also don’t want to argue about it.
So then. Our friends Beverley, Bruce, and Ivan invited us to the shindig at Hípica Pedro Macías, called Fiesta Campera. That’s a pretty general statement for this charity event-slash-party, which featured a tentadero (more on that down below), as well as a horse show for the school’s students, a charity raffle, live music, and tons of food.
A short drive from Seville, San José de la Rinconada is a town of about 38,000, although we wouldn’t see any of it since we were on the outskirts. It was cloudy all morning, having rained during the night, so temps were a bit chilly before the sun decided to rear its glorious head in the afternoon.
After parking the car, we ran into these folks of the equine variety, just hanging out and staring at their motorized replacements.
We then made our way to the entrance, passing through the stables and greeting all of the horses.
We chucked in €10 each (charity!), and grabbed a table. The crowd was pretty light this early in the day, but that also meant we could grab one of the many open tables before the place got packed.
Each entrance came with drink and food tickets, but we bought more because two drinks and one degustación wouldn’t exactly cut it.
We were immediately accosted by girls selling raffle tickets for prizes such as watches, a dress, and a saddle. None of those things really appealed to us, but charity and all, so we bought tickets anyway and spent an inordinate amount of time talking about how sexy I’d be in that dress.
I don’t have any pictures of the dress, or me in the dress, or me and the dress, so have some food instead.
A couple/few hours later, the tentadero began. It began late because, well, Spain, but that gave more time for the sun to come out and made heading outside into the open air a bit like walking into the light.
So then, what is a tentadero? It’s basically a test. It’s when some adolescent bulls are brought away from their luxurious pastures and into a bullring in order to have their bravery tested. I’d not so much call it ‘bravery’ as I would, something like, ‘to see whether or not they get rowdy enough to be considered worthy opponents.’
No bulls are harmed during a tentadero. It’s just about checking the bull’s demeanor in the ring, and letting the bullfighters practice.
There’s the ringleader on his horse, who eggs on the bull and plays target when the bullfighter isn’t there, or needs to reset, or isn’t the focus of said bull. He’s fully protected – as is the horse – so he really just sits there getting hammered by the rowdier bulls while trying to turn their attention to the matador.
On top of that, we got to see three aspiring bullfighters of three different ages. The first guy was on the cusp of being a professional, and it showed. Not only in his dress, but with his movements and attitude. Watching this guy and a bull interact was almost like watching a symphony.
Here’s a little video of this guy and the bull having a bit of a dance.
We then got to see two younger guys try their skills, which were obviously much less advanced and still learning the ropes. There were also a few kids out there, keeping the bulls occupied.
In fact, one of them, around 14 years old, got hammered by one of the bulls. This made for a rousing spectacle, one which Ang just happened to get on video. If you’ve been rooting for the bull, here you go.
No one was injured, and the brave little matador jumped back up on his feet and went back to work.
After it was all said and done, a little toddler came out with his tiny cape and practiced while his abuelo watched. Quite cute, I think.
We then made our way back outside and indulged in more food and drink while the horse riding teachers and students got ready for their exhibition. This was mostly dressage, led by the master of the school, some professionals, and a group of very talented students.
At this point, my camera battery died, so we were left to the whims of our iPhones and their terrible zoom. Sorry for a lack of clear action shots!
I’m not big into riding – the actual doing of it, which I’ve never done, or the watching of it – but it was very impressive to see the skills of all these boys and girls.
The one kid, probably 8-10 years of age, really put on a show during his solo, impressing even the least interested of spectators.
Once the exhibition ended, we enjoyed a round of coffee and cookies out in the bright sun, and jumped in the car for the short trip back to Seville. Overall, and despite our concerns about bullfighting, it was a great experience that we’ll never forget.
It was not only fascinating to see all of these things at work and experience some local culture, but also to learn about the tentadero and try to understand its history a bit more than the controversy that surrounds bullfighting itself.
Thanks very much to Hípica Pedro Macías for unwittingly hosting us and hundreds of others on this day, and to all the athletes and performers who made it a great time. Thanks as well to the cooks who did their best to keep up with the cooking before running out of food and having to call in local reinforcements! And obviously, we had a great time with Beverley, Bruce, and Ivan.
Oh, and we didn’t stay for the raffle. I wonder, Who ended up with my dress?