” Bullfight critics row on row fill the enormous Plaza de Toros, but only one is there who knows, and he is the one who fights the bull.” – John F. Kennedy
“Courage. It is not the absence of fear, but the strong will to kill the bastard holding that blanket!” – Bull
In April of 2015, I traveled to Baja, Mexico to observe a cultural tradition known as bullfighting. Such unique art forms motivate me to engage the world and explore its diverse cultural practices. While fully aware of the criticism of what can be interpreted as a cruel act, I believe it is important to understand as well as respect the world seen through the eyes of others. Inspired by journalists, I have a deep admiration for the courageous ones who make it their lives work to document the realities of this world. They offer their hearts and their lenses to present a world that needs to be documented, preserved or exposed.
Enter the arena.
Bullfighting takes on a different meaning depending on who you ask. A most noble tradition exploding with grace, beauty and style. A metaphor akin to the epic battles in Greek mythology. A dying art form, or simply put, a dying animal. Whatever the opinion in that arena, one thing is for certain. All lives are faced with a struggle. The attendants, officiators, the matador and of course the bull.
Retreat to Querencia.
In the midst of a fight, there is a critical moment in the pause. The balance of power can tip in favor of the one many consider to be the true hero, the bull. The Spanish call this state, Querencia. A metaphysical concept as a place of refuge and renewal. It is believed that in this state the bull can reclaim his strength and power. Writer Ernest Hemingway was a bullfighting aficionado. In his book Death in the Afternoon, he writes.
“A querencia is a place the bull naturally wants to go to in the ring, a preferred locality… It is a place which develops in the course of the fight where the bull makes his home. It does not usually show at once, but develops in his brain as the fight goes on. In this place he feels that he has his back against the wall and in his querencia he is inestimably more dangerous and almost impossible to kill.”
– Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon
What can we take away from this experience? This photographer entered with an open mind, but left with more unanswered questions and a few rolls of film. The developed images capture a historic moment in Baja, Mexico, as what may be the last bullfighting season in that state. This monumental occasion inspired the photographic series, ‘Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza’. Named after the famous Rejoneador to fight in that final season.