The ladies’ fans quiver, embroidered Spanish shawls are draped over balconies and at 5.30pm precisely, trumpets fanfare as 500 kilos of muscle thunders wildly towards six matadors holding pink capes.
Cries of ‘ole’ are uttered in unison at a series of passes before the principal matador enters the arena. It’s so quiet I can hear the flutter of the red cape as it slides across the sand.
who, head down, charges creating a flurry of sand beneath his hooves.
in Malaga province is the home of modern bullfighting. Love it or loathe it, this ritual wrapped in pageantry, elegantly performed by sexy matadors is a passion that the locals aren’t going to relinquish any time soon. But Ronda has more than the bullring to attract visitors.
Overlooking a broad plain where olive groves slumber under cerulean skies, Ronda is beautiful at any time. Cobblestones clatter with the sound of horses’ hooves and the rhythmic jangle of harness bells echoes through its enchanting medieval streets that have witnessed Moorish occupation and Spanish conquest. Under a spreading Oleander tree heavy with scarlet blossoms, haunting melodies played by a local Spanish guitarist float on the breeze.
It may appear clichéd but the soul of southern Spain is alive and well in Ronda and the surrounding white villages of Andalusia. A romantic image forged in the 19th century by banditry and bullfighting, every September, something spectacular happens when the bold and the beautiful flock here for the Corridas Goyescas, its most celebrated festival.
The ladies of Andalusia love their fashions bright with plenty of bling thrown in and senoritas, contoured in vivid sheaths that flare into a confection of frills, pose in a glamorous line-up for a flurry of tourist cameras. In the town square, local brew Cruzcampo sets up camp ready for a town that wants to par-tay and re-enactments of bandit skirmishes are performed in town squares and laneways upping the excitement quota.
American writer Ernest Hemingway knew Ronda well. It was from here that he lived while writing “Death in the Afternoon”, his masterpiece that unlocked the mysteries but not the mystique of the bullfight. Orson Welles and Pablo Picasso both loved the bullfights in Ronda, one of Spain’s three emblematic bullrings that opened in 1785 and became the holy grail of sensual elegance in the ring.
Taking Hemingway’s advice that if you see just one bullfight in Spain, then Ronda is the place to go, we join the crowd gathering to watch Spain’s lords of the ring arrive. They stride quickly across the cobblestone courtyard in front of the Plaza de Toros, past the brave bull cast in bronze and into the beautiful whitewashed bullring.
This is the busiest day of the year and a cheer erupts from the restaurants opposite where diners lever themselves away from their Saturday lunch to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ as glamorously well-heeled women and perma-tanned men wearing Mediterranean casual file through the entry gates.
Surrounded by the distant sierras, the sun breaks boldly through creating the light and shadow so essential to the combat which oscillates between life and death.
Even Hemingway found it difficult to describe a bullfight, an experience that can vary widely on each occasion, so I’ll leave it to your imaginings but the final score line read matadors eight, bulls zero…..
For information on Spain visit www.spain.info and www.turismoderonda.es