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In Spain, the standard bullfight consists of six bulls (two per matador)—that’s two hours of medieval man-vs.-beast madness. Each ritual killing lasts about 20 minutes. Then another bull romps into the arena. You’re not likely to see much human blood spilled. Over the last 200 years of bullfighting in Spain, only a handful of matadors have been killed. If a bull does kill a fighter, the next matador comes in to kill the bull. Historically, even the bull’s mother is killed, since the evil qualities are assumed to have come from her.

On this visit, the killing—under the sword of rookies—seems to me more pathetic and cruel than ever, and the audience, though mostly Spanish, appears to include more tourists than ever. The scene just didn’t grab me. After two bulls, I leave, feeling a bit wimpy as I pass the ushers at the door. Walking from the arena back to the subway, I realize that I’m among a select little crowd—the lightest of the lightweights in the stadium—of about 20 people out of several thousand, leaving after only a third of the action. We are all tourists, including several American families. At the subway platform, I stand next to a Midwestern family—mom holding daughter’s hand and dad holding son’s hand. I ask, “Two bulls enough?” The parents nod. The 12-year-old boy sums it up in three words: “That was nasty.”

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