August 13th, 2008


Bulls of air

Inflatable bull costumes: who knew such a thing existed? But they do, and two toros chased through the streets of old Madrid last night for a "running of the bulls for everyone" as part of the Virgin of the Dove Fiesta.

Kids loved it. Some came with child-sized bullfighter capes to practice capea, and others formed human blockades in the narrow streets and taunted the bulls to charge. As you can see from the photos (not bad for a mobile phone at night, hey?) the person inside the costume occupies the two front legs of the bull, and the rear bounces around behind him like a beach ball.

Adults were not safe, and in a careless moment, I got "gored," which almost made me spill my Madrid lemonade, the traditional drink of the fiesta, which is really sangría made with white wine.

During the first two weeks of August, Madrid's oldest and most castizo neighborhood (castizo means traditional and blue-collar) hold its fiestas honoring St. Cayetano, St. Lorenzo, and the Virgin of the Dove. She is a homely portrait, probably of a nun, which was found in 1790 in the trash and was soon elevated to holiness by the neighborhood. It is now enshrined in a lovely church.

The neighborhood organizes the fiesta, with castizo costumes, music, dancing, theater, religious processions, and homespun entertainment like inflatable bull runs and contests, including one for castizo rap. The fiesta continues each night into the wee hours with rock music and DJs in the street in front of popular bars.

I was there as part of the annual fiesta field trip of the members of the Madrid Writer's Critique Group. No writing was done.