An Aussie visits the bullring in Jerez de la Frontera Kirrilly Rebecca Thompson Bullfighting Webcenter Andalucia Spain

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The Gift

An Aussie visits the bullring in Jerez de la Frontera
This article was written in May 2001 by Kirrilly Rebecca Thompson ©

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Friday night - 7pm

The corrida de toros (bullfight) in Jerez. And my favourite was fighting - Juan Jose Padilla, born in Jerez.

Last week in the April feria de Sevilla he was gored in the neck, in the exact same place he had been gored a week prior. All this week I followed his story to see if he would fight this Friday, alongside El Juli (19 year old legend). Normally, after a torero has finished his kill, he walks around the arena with his hat in his right hand to receive the admiration of the crowd. People often throw things down to the bullfighter, such as flowers which he keeps, or a hat or jacket or crutch (!) for him to pick up, touch and throw back.

The fighter is accompanied by a couple of assistants who have aided him during the fight. These help to collect items from the arena and pass to the bullfighter. Usually, he picks up all the items thrown by women, such as scarves (no surprises there). At the corrida de rejones (bullfight on horseback) on wednesday, each of the three bullfighters was given a live rooster as a gift after each fight.

the goring


Anyway, Padilla fought well, or, at least he fought. During the week doctors had advised him not to fight and were worried about his blood coagulating. But, he fought because he had to; this is after all his home town.

We sat high in the graded seats, wedged between the legs of the people above us as the seating was over booked.

Padilla is very cool and has sideburns, or "lamb chops" the size of a 60's porn star. During his passes with the cape, the leg of his tight (bum hugging) leggings got entangled in the horns of the bull. Everyone gasped, accustomed to seeing Padilla gored by now. He fell onto the ground and rolled himself out of reach of the bull. He got up and did some more passes with the bull before triumphantly throwing his arm into the air and walking away, leaving the bull dazed behind him! Yeah, what a man! The crowd went wild and waved their white hankies madly. The president, who was very hard to persuade for the rest of the bullight, immediately draped an orange hanky over his box. The crowd went even wilder. This signified that the bull could go free and that Padilla could have all of the trophies (its ears and tail). Padilla faked killing the bull (he used his bare hands without a sword). A group of 5 or 6 oxen entered the arena and herded the bull out with them (after some time as it didn't really want to leave and kept charging the oxen.)

Padilla was given the ears and tail of a bull killed earlier as his prize. What a show! What a man and what a bull!

the gift

I had bought a gift to throw down to Padilla.

So, I bought him a koala. You know the ones, they are small enough to fit inside the palm of your hand, if you press their shoulders they open their arms and cling onto things and they wear a little hat with a jacket that says "I love Australia". This particular koala also came with the suction cap feature so that it could pass its long important life hanging from glass windows.


the koala

Padilla came past our side of the arena and Ilia (my man) threw the little "aussie battler" (the koala) down onto the arena - a fantastic shot. One of the assistants picked it up, together with a rose and a hat. He looked oddly at it, but had a job to do so while walking. Padilla was too busy touching someone's guitar to be handed the koala and it was time for the next bull to enter the arena. The assistant continued on, but as he walked, he unknowingly dropped the koala from his overflowing (but somewhat obviously unco-ordinated) hands.

It fell into the ground!


It was a grey koala that, from a distance, was white. So too is the line drawn around an inner boundary of the circumference of the arena. It looked like a smear in the line. I called for someone to save it but the words just weren't heard over the full stands. I was frantic - there it was, a symbol of my country, laying with the symbol of a country almost exactly half a world away.

The bull entered the arena. The koala lay still. If only I had koala calm. It was laying a few meters from one of the fences, a little in from the bullring where the fighters can run to for safety. Two men were hidden there. One walked out to where the koala lay and picked up....a fallen rose. He just didn't see my sacrificial koala.


The bullfight continued. One of the understudy fighters walked slowly backwards, a large pink and yellow cape draped in front of him, dragging it along the ground. He stepped over the koala, the weight of the cape brushing the koala backwards until it was exactly on the white line, and totally invisible to the untrained koala eye.

And there it lay. We wondered what would happen to it. Would it later be bulldozed into the turn of the Plaza de Toros de Jerez as the earth was graded and be immortalised for ever... No, almost 20 panic stricken minutes, of touch and go, later, the koala was spotted. An assistant ran out, picked it up, looked at is with disgust and threw it not one metre from the hands of a small child, to whom it went completely unnoticed.

  I do not know how to end this story, because I do not know how it ended for the koala. Such is the fate of an Ozzie symbol in Jerez de la Frontera. But let it be known that it was there and it saw more than a koala could have ever hoped for... If only it could speak, the stories it would tell...

© "The Gift" Kirrilly Rebecca Thompson 2001



Kirrilly Rebecca Thompson is Erudita de Investigaciones Universidad de Adelaida (Australia) Titulo de Licenciado en Ciencias Sociales con Calificación en Antropología

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