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The Great Tradition Of Bullfighting On Display In Cancun

Mar 27, 2008
Located just a few miles from the beaches and resorts of Cancun's Hotel Zone, the Plaza de Toros delights visitors with one of Mexico's most fascinating cultural customs. Each week, Cancun's bullring brings together the bravest animals and most flamboyant matadors for performances rooted in Spanish history and Mexican folklore. Having been a revered sport in the region since the arrival of Cortez, bullfighting is often considered one of the world's most elegant, but misunderstood, sports. By allowing visitors to see a traditional side of Cancun, the city's popular bullring is able to provide curious tourists a perfect contrast to the luxurious accommodations and activities of the Hotel Zone.

The tradition of bullfighting stems from the millennium-old Spanish custom of hunting in the wild. In most cases, hunters would encounter deer or boars and the animals would flee, putting up little fight to the pursuing knights and noblemen. However, when Spaniards crossed paths with the Iberian bull, they were surprised at the animal's unwillingness to flee. In the wild, knights would challenge these noble bulls and later brag about the details of their confrontations. Over time, the animals were transported to Spanish villages where the bullfighters could demonstrate their skill and courage to the public.

The first historic bullfight is thought to have taken place in 1133 to honor the coronation of King Alfonso VIII. Over the next several centuries, the Spanish would organize bullfights at many important events and to commemorate numerous holidays. By the 18th century, bullfighting had descended from the Spanish nobility to become a popular pastime throughout the country. After Francisco Romero became the first professional bullfighter in Spain and transformed the seemingly simple activity into the elaborate performance it is today, the sport found its way to Mexico and Latin America during the colonial period. Today, the sport of bullfighting remains as not only one of the strongest symbols of Spanish culture, but is also held in high regard throughout Mexico and parts of Latin America.

Just as different classes of Spanish society put their mark on bullfighting for centuries, Mexican citizens adopted the sport and added elements of their native culture to the performance. Visitors to the bullring in Cancun - Plaza de Toros - will be treated to an introductory dance performance rooted in Mexico's rich folklore. Afterwards, the charros - comical cowboy figures known for their large sombreros and similar to the American rodeo clown - perform for the crowd and set the stage for the main event. Most of the bullfights in Cancun feature four bulls squaring off individually with elegantly dressed matadors. During the high-season of November to April, bullfights take place each Wednesday at 3:30 PM and tickets can be purchased at the arena or through your resort's concierge desk. Admission is free for children under six years of age, while discounts are often available for adult tickets.

While bullfighting is an important part of Mexican tradition and has been enjoyed in many countries for centuries, the spectacle is not for everyone. While the bulls are treated with great reverence in the sport of bullfighting, most matches end with the ceremonial death of the animal. However, when bulls perform well they are often granted victory laps, while some bulls are spared to continue the breed and live out their lives in a comfortable environment. Yet, it must also be understood that bullfighting has longstanding cultural relevance in many countries and while some wary visitors may view the bullfight as cruel, the people of Cancun view the sport as a beautiful and respectful performance. Though some visitors may not like the final outcome, nearly everyone can appreciate the unique cultural traditions and gain a deeper understanding of Mexican history since the arrival of the Spanish.

As Cancun's Plaza de Toros is conveniently located just north of the Hotel Zone, one of the most elegant and unique sports in the world can easily be enjoyed by visitors. Furthermore, a sunny afternoon with an exciting part of Mexico's cultural history provides the perfect compliment to the luxurious beaches and resorts that have made Cancun famous.
About the Author
Justin Burch writes articles about travel in Cancun and Mexico tourism for the Marriott Resorts.
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