Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A lot to do about… bullrings

Like cathedrals in Britain, every town and village has a plaza del toros and treats it like it’s the only one on the planet, or at least the most remarkable one… I for one have a hard time understanding the tradition and just by saying this I will probably step on a lot of toes…since it ís tradition! But still, somehow you can’t escape seeing at least two or three bullrings when visiting the area. So okay, I will skip the whole discussion whether or not the bullfighting tradition is one we have to let go off and try to review the plazas del toros as I would with their predecessors: the amphitheatres of the Romans. We do not often discuss if they were ‘right’ in having these fights for hundreds of thousands of spectators, probably since this is ‘ancient history’. We just look at the facts: where were these theatres placed, did the location have any significance, how many people could fit in? Is the theatre shaped oddly or is it a ‘prototype’?  Is it shaped oddly due to the landscape or is there another reason? Is there political significance linked to the building? How long has it been in use for? All these questions can also be directed to the plazas del toros and when I compare the bullrings in the Costa del Sol area, you might get a notion  of which arena is really ‘unique’ and if you really MUST visit one, you‘ll know which one to choose (instead of just believing every plaque or guide book in telling you ‘this is the most perfect, unique, brilliantly shaped, highest, biggest etc.’


So, let’s start with the one in Ronda. The bullring in this  town is supposed to be one of the oldest in Spain. Due to renewed popularity in the 18th century (the birth of ‘modern’ bullfighting), the Cavalry of Ronda decided to built a new bullring. The same architect that designed the famous bridge of Ronda, Martín de Aldehuela, designed the bullring. The construction of the bullring started in 1779 and the building was opened in 1785. The ring has a double gallery of arches and is fully covered. The arena has a diameter of 66 meters.  Within the plaza del toro you’ll find 136 columns, forming 68 arches. The Royal box has a covering roof of Arabic tiles. There are five rows for spectators to sit per stone rings, of which there are two.  
Since this bullring is located in a rural surrounding, not many bullfights are held here. However, for a small fee, the building is open to the public. Madonna recorded her video clip ‘Take a bow’ at this spot and other American television shows have recorded here as well. Being ‘the birthplace of Modern bullfighting’ and the certain elegance of the building, this one might actually be worth a visit. Inside the bullring there is a bullfighting museum, that is considered the most informative of these kinds of museums in the south of Spain. The museum doesn’t only cover bullfighting history, but saddle making as well and it has a collection of old fire arms.
Plaza de Toros Mijas
Yes, we can immediately state that the bullring in Mijas is really something else. It is oval shaped, which is of course an odd shape! The oval shape is a remarkable feature, but Mijas isn’t the only town with an oval bullring, although it is one of few. The bullring was built in 1900 and is located in the center of town, which is a higher part of the village. When you first notice the building, you might not even think it is a bullfighting ring. It looks a bit like the surrounding houses, the access gate is in perfect harmony with the landscape, as is the rest of the building, which explains its odd shape. The bullring was modernized from 1986-1977. You can only enter the bullring during planned events.

Plaza de Toros Malaga

The bullring in Malaga is called La Malagueta and is an old building as well. Built in 1876, it was immediately inaugurated with an event. The building was modernized in 2010. The arena measures 52 meters in diameter and has a museum. Being a bigger plaza del toros, located in a bigger town, bullfighting events occur more often. The building style is called neomudéjar.
The bullring in Antequera seems to have been build in a hurry. It was erected in 1848 and the upper sections were made out of wood.  Still, until 1980 the building remained in relatively good shape. In 1983 it was renovated. A new gate was constructed, although in the style of the 18th century architects of the area. But still, the façade we see today is a bit ‘fake’, as does the interior. It differs quite a bit from the original plaza del toros from 1848. Of course the good people of Antequera will tell you this is one of the most beautiful bullrings of Spain. It certainly is in good shape…The location is nice though: surrounded by gardens. Not many tourists visiting Antequera will do so in order to visit the bullring, it isn’t famous. But, if you are interested in architecture, this one might appeal to you. The building materials are all local and the use of old architectural styles are interesting.  The plaza del toros also houses a museum. This bullring is frequently in use.
The bullring of Estepona isn’t that old, it was built in 1972, but has typical asymmetric design and you can reach the upper terraces without climbing stairs. The feature that makes this plaza del toros unique are the museums that house inside the building: a bullfighting museum(of course), paleontology museum and ethnographical museum make the building still worth a visit. The best part: it’s free of charge!
I’ve done my bit, now it’s up to you. After a visit you can at least state you know what you’re talking about, without getting in to the animal rights discussion right away…Happy architecture gazing to you all!

1 comment:

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