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Packed onto Madrid’s subway jammed with Spaniards heading for Plaza de Toros, I’m wondering how I’ll react to seeing another bullfight—my first in several years. At the last stop, everyone piles out and the escalator pumps us directly up to the looming facade of Madrid’s bullring—the biggest in Spain.

It’s like going to a baseball game, but rather than peanuts and crackerjacks, it’s pistachios and corn nuts. Bullfights are held on most Sunday evenings, Easter through October. Serious fights with adult matadors are called corridas de toros. These are most expensive and often sell out in advance. But now, in summertime, many fights are novilladas, with cheaper tickets, younger bulls, and teenage novices doing the killing. My ticket is just $10 because tonight’s three bullfighters are novilladas. The man in front of me in the ticket line negotiates aggressively for a good seat. I simply say, “Uno, por favor,” and end up sitting right next to him. The ramshackle band seems to be directed by the cymbal player, who claps a relentless rhythm.

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