Nothing is as hotly contested today in Latin America, as bullfighting. Considered an art and tradition by some, it is hated and scorned by others as an tool for animal abuse. Here at we’ve decided to investigate the history and culture of a sport that has centuries of tradition in Spain and Latin America. And here’s what we learned about Manizales Bullfighting, or the Fiesta Brava!

Feel free to sound off in the comments below whether you love it, hate it or – like me, you just wanted to see what it was all about.


Let’s get down to the nitty gritty details!

All I can ever ask of anyone when it comes down to controversial topics like this one, is to always do a complete investigation into a topic before you take a stance on it. It is the way of the intellectual. The way of the free thinker.

Read both sides, meditate on it, then express yourself according to your own moral compass.

The History of Manizales Bullfighting


According to one enthusiast, ancient Spain was a place where mature bulls were hunted for meat, and the tradition descended from there. According to, it is protected as a “national culture” by the European Union.

Through the years it has been hailed simultaneously as a romantic ballet, and a disgusting slaughter. There’s even an ancient pagan religion that sacrificed bulls that dates back to an ancient cult of Mithra, from the ancient empire of Persia.

For some it evokes the image of romance in a mortal ballet duel. For others, it is in violation of all that is revered about life, and death.

Allí empezó el juego entre un ser humano, el ser racional y el toro, irracional.” / There began the game between a human, a rational being, and a bull, irrational. – Mario Jimenez Sanchez, painter.

For everyone who turns their attention to it, the final decision of like or dislike for bullfighting is very personal and sacred. Between aficionados, and “contra-taurinos,” there is no “type.” Supporters and opponents come from every religion and background.

The final decision for or against the “corrida,” or bullfighting spectacle, seems to be based more on the personal opinion of the individual, and on personal beliefs regarding life, death, humans, animals, and morality.

La Fiesta Brava – Manizales, Colombia

Since the founding of Manizales, bulls have played a role in the local culture. There’s an entire body of literature, art and music based on bullfighting culture. Each year, there is a “temporada taurino” or Bullfighting Season, in Colombia. It starts with the Cali city festival in December, continues with the Manizales and Bogota fights, then concludes with the Medellin bullfights.


Photo Credit: Dale Prickett

The most popular bullfighting events, are those held in Manizales, the Capital Taurina, or Bullfighting capital of Colombia. We caught up with Alvaro Hernando Gallego, a radio announcer, journalist and bull aficionado to hear what he had to say about the bullfighting:

“La tradición de los toros en Manizales es muy larga. Manizales tiene 163 años de vida, y se puede decir que en esos 163 años de existencia de la ciudad, ha habido por los últimos 100 años. Aquí ha habido por lo menos 12 plazas de toros. Unas portátiles y otras que han ido evolucionando con el tiempo. En este momento, Manizales es la única ciudad en Colombia que tiene dos plazas de toros. La plaza de toros del soldado que está ubicada en el Batallón de Infantería Ayacucho y la Monumental Plaza de Toros de Manizales que está ubicada en la Avenida Centenario. Desde ahí te puedes dar cuenta,  la gran tradición taurina que tiene Manizales.  Nuestra ciudad tiene 400,000 habitantes y ellos tienen los genes taurinos metidos en todo el cuerpo. Podría decir que es la única ciudad que vive y que siente la fiesta brava.”

The tradition of bulls in Manizales is very long. Manizales is 163 years old. I could say of the 163 years that this city has existed, bull tradition has existed for the last 100 years. Here, there were once 12 bull plazas. Some of them portable and others who had evolved accross the time. At this moment, Manizales is the only city in Colombia that still has 2 bull plazas. The “Plaza de Toros del Soldado” which is located in the “Ayacucho” Batallion of Infantry and the “Monumental Plaza de Toros de Manizales” at the Centenario Avenue. From this point, you could see the enormous bull tradition that Manizales has. Our city has 400,000 inhabitants and they have bull tradition genes in all of their body. I could say, It is the only city that lives and feels the fiesta brava.

Yo recuerdo que pequeñito mi papa me llevó la primera vez a las corridas, él me dijo “vamos a ir a ver arte”. Eso se me grabo a mi. Yo cuando llegué pequeñito a una plaza de toros, fue arte lo que yo vi. Los trajes de los toreros, el colorido de la plaza, la alegría del publico, es una explosión de colores lo que ve uno en una corrida de toros. Por eso mi gran interés en la poesía taurina, la literatura taurina, la pintura taurina, es que alrededor de los toros mueve muchas cosas, y todo es arte. La poesía y la música como los paso-dobles y el flamenco. Mira todo lo que ha inspirado la fiesta brava. El sol, la arena, y la sangre, el color rojo de la sangre en las plazas. Todo es arte.

I remember when I was a little boy, dad took me the first time to the bullfights, he told me “let’s go and see art”. That was something that I always remind. When I went to a bullring that day, it was art that I saw. The costumes of the bullfighters, the color of the plaza, the joy of the public. It is an explosion of colors that you can see in a bullfight. That’s why my great interest in bullfighting poetry, bullfighting literature, bullfighting painting. Around the bulls it moves many things, and everything is art. Poetry and music as the Pasodobles and Flamenco. Look at everything that has inspired the fiesta brava. The sun, the sand, and the blood, the red color of the blood in the squares. Everything is art.

We will never see torture a bull, in fact it is not torture. These fighting bulls are privileged and the most spoiled in the world. They are prepared to die in a bullring as they die.

We would like to say a huge thanks to La Voz de los Andes 1390AM and Alvaro Hernando Gallego, for their participation and support in our investigation about tourism in Manizales AND the bullfighting too.

Art and Culture of Bullfighting in Manizales

One of the dominant themes of the art that visitors will see in Manizales, revolves around the culture of the local bullfighting tradition. Bulls living in their natural habitat, or dying in a final moment of glory. Local artist Mario Jiménez Sánchez describes it as being “desde niño”/since childhoodeso es como la religion“/like a religion.”

He goes on to say “nos invulcraron al religion, nos invulcraron tambien la aficion, como el tauro-magia, es una cultura, es una aficion de Manizales y ademas, cumple un tradicion filanthropica también. / We became involved in the religion, in the love, the magic of the bull is a culture, it’s an aficion of Manizales and further more, it fulfills a philanthropic tradition also.

Que es Torear / What is Bullfighting?

Que es torear, es el arte, la gracia de la corrida. Es dibujar un lance tras un lance.

What is bullfighting, it is the art, the grace of the running of the bulls. It’s to draw a lance behind a lance.

Es cultura en el tiempo definido, desafío de sangre contra sangre.

It’s culture in a defined time, a parade of blood against blood.

Es un ance infinita que no cesa, es cadencia de amor entre asados.

It’s a infinite….that doesn’t cease, the cadence of love between asados.[two under pressure]

Es un hombre y un toro que se alegran con la afán y pasion de enamorados

It’s a man and a bull that find happiness with an urgency and passion of lovers.

Es algo que perdura o se liquida, es enfrentar la suerte con la suerte

It’s something that pardons or liquidates, it’s to confront luck with luck

Es un juego mortal en el que la vida esta jugando con la propia muerte.

It’s a mortal game in which the life is playing against it’s own death.

~ Author Unknown ~ This was a poem that Mario shared with us to describe the feeling of the bullfights.

DESDE EL INFINITO Acrilico sobre Liezo 2015

Photo Credit: Mario Jimenez Sanchez

Mario Jiminez Sanchez, is a Pintor Taurino. His passion is capturing the “Toro Bravo” in his natural habitat. Call or email for more information about available works and gallery location information. or by cell +57 315 493 4273

Temporada Taurina

In January, Manizales has the Temporada Taurina, or Bull Season, and is one of the cornerstones of the annual Feria de Manizales. For several consecutive days, the bullfights start with amateur categories of small yearling bulls and build up to world class professional bullfighters and fully mature heavyweight and very pissed off bulls.

Anatomy of a Bullfight

We interviewed an amateur bullfighter from Pereira, Alejandro Naranjo Gaviria – Novillero sin Caballos, about the mechanics of bullfighting. Here’s what he had to say:

PCG = PereiraCityGuide editorial investigation team

Alejo = The Bullfighter

PCG: How did you become interested in the sport of bullfighting?

Alejo: My father. Desde muy pequeno nos han llevado. / Since we were very young they (parents) took us.There was a tradition in my family, and from a young age I had always attended the event. My brother is a professional bullfighter and we both love it.

PCG: What does it feel like to confront a bull in the arena?

Alejo: It’s a question of intelligence and technique. You must have a certain physical level. We train as much or more than athletes.  This is where it becomes an art.

PCG: What about these rumors of abuse that surround bullfighting? What is your reply to that?

Alejo: He must come out with his 5 senses intact. He must look and feel good. Most importantly, he must have the will to fight. If a bull comes out who looks sick or injured, they will switch out the bull. There are many myths regarding this part. And we are in a different epoch, where animals are even more well cared for even now.


Photo Credit: Alejandro Naranjo Gaviria

PCG: What is the bullfight sequence?

Alejo: There are three phases:

#1 | Tercio de Varas (Lances)

Where they come out with the heavy pink and yellow cape, a heavy cape, to test his Bravura.

According to a website for aficionados, this stage is very delicate both for the fighters, the fans and the breeders.

“… cuando el tercio de varas se ejecuta mal -con el consabido e inmisericorde unipuyazo, tan frecuente en nuestros días- los efectos son repudiables: Se inutiliza el toro para la lidia, el ganadero se queda sin apreciar las calidades de su pupilo y el aficionado llega a sentir repulsión y asco.” [2] / Translation: When the third of lances is poorly excecuted, it can cause considerable misery and foolishness, so common nowadays, and the effects are repudiable. The bull is then rendered useless for the rest of the fight, the rancher fails to appreciate the qualities of his ward (bull), and the fan begins to feel repulsion and disgust.

What does this mean? That yes – things happen. Things sometimes go horribly wrong. But, that is not the goal of the bullfight. The goal is to test the anger, temperament and comportment. There are active conversations in the bullfighting world, just like this one, that look at how to ensure that the bulls are fought as carefully as possible to ensure that he meets his purpose, and that he also dies in a dignified way. But, this is for each individual person to judge and decide on.

#2 | Tercio de Banderillas 

Where the “Picador” comes out on horseback with short sticks with short blades that are stuck into his back aimed for a specific spot, which leaves space behind the neck where there is a lot of muscle. This causes him to release some of his energy. It liberates him and allows him to focus on the bullfighter. They are not designed to touch the spine and they will cause him to bleed a bit, make him feel attacked and then allow him to become angry enough to fight a human.

#3| Tercio de Muerto

In this final step, there is a democratic motion and vote made by the president of the plaza to the audience, as to whether the bull will live or die. In this step he dies. During this step the fighter comes out with a red cape, called a “muleta.” He must meet three conditions in order of them to choose “induto“, or pardon the life of the bull. He must demonstrate “Bravura“/anger, “Nobleza“/nobility  y “Casta“/breed (character). If he can meet these three conditions, he goes home to the ranch to become the father of future fighting bulls.

According to Alejo, if he fails these conditions, he dies with dignity to the sound of cheering and applause.

The Voice of the People

We didn’t want to publish this article, without allowing the opponents of bullfighting to express themselves. We value the beliefs of our readers, as much or more than our own. Therefore, we have the opposition voice here:

“This type of practice goes against the right to life of these animals; that are unjustly mistreated in an attempt to represent a style of Roman Coliseum where the thirst for blood and death are the main factor.”
Marcelo Torres, Cartago – Valle de Cauca
El derecho a la vida debe primar sobre el derecho a la “diversión ” de una especie sobre otra. El toreo No es Cultura, es Tortura. Actos propios de culturas salvajes y anacrónicas, reductos de la historia sangrientamente del oscurantismo medieval, espectáculo heredado del circo romano donde los emperadores se excitaban con la muerte, donde hombres esclavos eran condenados a morir peleando contra perros molidos y toros de lidia….
Dr. Douglas Montañez Yaspe, Pereira – Risaralda
The right to life must come first over the right of the “diversion,” of one species over another. To bullfight isn’t culture, it’s torture. [These are] acts typical of wild and anachronistic cultures, redoubts of history’s bloody medieval obscurantism, a show inherited from the Roman circus where the emperors excited themselves with death, where male slaves were condemned to die fighting against milled dogs and fighting bulls ….
Dr. Douglas Montañez Yaspe, Pereira – Risaralda
Para poder salir al ruedo, cuando van a ser toreados, son mortificados y se les pone un clavo entre los dos orejas mucho tiempo, los desangren y hace un cantidad de maltrato. Y fue criados como los perros pitbull exclusivamente. Ninguna animal, ninguna servido esta hecho para la violencia. Como puedes a uno entender como que en el siglo veinte uno, todavía existan eventos que representen supuestamente la cultura tipo como Romano. Las arenas de Verona, la arena de Roma lo que sucede anteayer macabros, solo tenia relación con la muerte. Como los Colombianos, como los Mexicanos, y como los Espanoles, somos mas tercer mundistas que los Alemanes y que los Iglesias, por que ellos no tienen corridas. No es bueno a ver sacrificar un animal, como sacrificar alguien de mi familia. Me parece macabro.
William Cardona, Artist – Pereira Risaralda
In order that [the bull] can exit into the noise, when they are going to be fought, they are mortified. They put a nail between the two ears for a long time, they bleed them and do a good bit of mistreatment [to them]. They were created like the pitbull dogs, exclusively [to fight]. There isn’t a single animal or servant, that is made for violence. How can someone understand that in the 21st century there still exists events that supposedly represent a type of “Roman” culture. The sands of Verona, the arena of Rome [is an example of] what happens the day before yesterday, so macabre, it only had a relationship with death. The Colombians, the Mexicans, the Spanish, we are more third worldists than the Germans and English, because they don’t have corridas. It is not good to see [them] sacrificing an animal,  [it’s] like sacrificing someone from my family. I think it’s macabre.
William Cardona, Artist – Pereira Risaralda


We did not write this story to convince our readers. We wrote it, to show them what it is: A grand spectacle that is a part of the fabric of Latin American culture. If you like it, like it. If you hate it, hate it.

This is a decision so personal, only YOU are the one who can decide what you like.

If the words of the aficionados touch a note, go see La Recorrida. If the words of the anti-taurinos touch you deeper, then you know that the bullfights aren’t for you. Ultimately, bullfighting is a tradition which seems to be slowly dying off. But, for better or for worse, it was a part of history, a part of the culture, and a part of Colombia, handed down to them by the Spanish. Ev


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