Position: 38 32.039 N 028 37.525 W
Back when we were getting ready to leave Flores for Faial, we mentioned to a local that were going on to Terciera for the festival. He said "Oh - Terciera - they love their bulls. They do everything with their bulls!"
We now know what he meant. During the 10 day festival of St John almost every day has an activity related to bulls, sometimes two! As well as the usual bullfights in the ring, we could not bring ourselves to attend any of these, they also have a 'sport' which involves a bull attached to about 100 feet of thick rope. At the other end are 7 or 8 men dressed in grey pants, white shirts, and black hats. It looks like the guys with the rope try to control the bull a bit, but it honestly seems like more of a "suggestion" than any kind of control!
An area of the town is blocked off by buildings, trucks and sheets of plywood and the bull runs around, being taunted with umbrellas, blankets and waving arms. Anyone macho enough to try it can run with the bull. The rope guys get dragged around while the bull goes after whoever he sets his sights on. Once in a while the bull turns, looks at the guys with the rope, and goes after them. They drop the rope and scatter, then when the bull gets distracted by someone else running across his field of view, they run back and grab the rope again.
During the festival there were 3 of these events, two of them were located on a town street that was blocked at both ends by trucks. We missed the first one involving adults. We translated the second one loosley from the festival program using our trusty Portugese - English dictionary to something like "Procession of the Bulls and Children". This turned out to be young bulls and adolescent boys. The macho culture here obviously doesn't approve of females participating in this sport.
Or, Julie interjects, "could it just be that females just have more sense?"
These events in the street are not too easy to view as the only way to see what's going on involves standing on the bed of the truck at either end or hanging from one of the balconies that line the streets here.
Yesterday, the third bull event was held right at the marina. When we arrived by water in our dinghy there was a solid wall of boats - these Tercierans really ARE crazy about their bulls. The walls were lined with spectators, the roofs of all the nearby buildings were covered, it was standing room only and really something to see. We didn't think we'd be able to see anything, but then two fishing boats right in the middle of the raft saw us and started yelling at us to join them. They grabbed poles, pushed their boats apart to make room for us, and we slid on in and had front row seats about 80 feet from shore!
Crowds of guys would come into the "ring" when the bull was at the other end, and as soon as he started toward them, would run away and climb the barricades. Some who were more brave (or more professional?) than others actually managed to get the bull running around in circles chasing them with one hand on his horn! Luckily no-one got badly hurt. The bull scuffed his knees, a man got bounced off the horns of the bull and over it's back, but he jumped up and ran off, and a dog got tossed up in the air.
We don't really understand the finer points of the "run in, then run away" theme or the role of the "string handlers", but the bulls put on a pretty good performance.
One local told us that last year a bull broke through the plywood barrier that had been erected in front of a butcher shop and totally trashed it before it was removed. Ironic, eh?
Mark & Julie