Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Toros de Pueblo

What happens when you get hammered on strong lager, lock an angry bull inside a ring and start pissing it off?
Torros del pueblo, Ecuador
This obviously.

The fiesta experience is almost ineffable - it's a concoction of noise; the childlike, alien nasal song of Indian women; the bang of the bass drum and the brass blast; head-spinning intoxication; insurgent-grade rockets exploding just above head height, tripping over the groaning drunk; getting trampled by a horse; molested by a street dog; more booze; not more booze; then more booze; a cross-dressing man, blacked-up and wielding a screaming baby chases you with his broom; you crash into a drunk Indian man; you spend five minutes trying to explain what England is, he looks confused and gives you more booze; bulls, bulls, and more booze.

I was at the Fiesta de Pesillo, just north of Cayambe. It follows the typical mold of Ecuadorian fiestas, booze, bands, costumes and fireworks... but Pesillo has bulls.

Toros de Pueblo is a simple idea. Lock an angry bull inside a ring in the middle of town and wind it up until somebody gets a good goring. It's astonishing how sobering a horn in the trasero can be.

All of the town's heroes and hard-men stepped into the ring to prove the size of their huevos, with predictably hilarious consequences. Drunk these men were, matadors they were not.

Even the kids get involved - this eight-year-old boy got caught out by the bull's sudden turn of pace and got royally clobbered. Amazingly there were no tears. He got a firm shake, a dust down and was back in the ring for more.

Torros del pueblo, Ecuador Torros del pueblo, Ecuador

I love the toros de pueblo - perhaps a surprising stance for a vegetarian. Sure, it's a blood sport, but the blood is all human not animal.

I was a little drunk and desperate to join in the fun but a firm hand clasped around my elbow prevented me from hurdling the barrier. 'It looks easy,' I reasoned. 'I could outrun that old bull'. Lucy wisely decided to beat a retreat while she still had control, quoting Withnail and I: "A coward you are Tom, an expert on bulls you are not." Also the bamboo stand we were sharing with 500 other people was starting to creak under the strain.
Fruit for the bull's back
The processional pineapple and the snow-capped volcano of Cayambe
It is a fact: at any moment, on any day, somewhere in Ecuador a fiesta is happening. But finding the fiesta is easier said than done. We drove to Cayambe, the main town in the area, hoping to land square into the thick of it but all we found were broken bottles, empty stands and snoozing borrachos. We were 24 hours too late.

We picked up the trail just north of town with the remnants of an all-night fiesta. Five men and women were swigging beer and dancing and singing. They pointed us in the direction of Pesillo and promised us bulls.

It must have been a bit like finding a rave back in the 90s, just march to the sound of the cannons.

On the way to Pesillo we passed this incredible rainbow over the town.
Rainbow over Olmedo town, Ecuador (near Cayambe)
Rainbow over town, looks like a MAC job
Fiestas are crazy places at the best of time and I can never stay sober for long. Trago and beer are poured down my throat, occasionally I'll contribute a dollar for the vaca. The cow is like a rolling collection fund to make sure there's always booze flowing. There is no concept of ownership at an Ecuadorian fiesta, your booze is their booze and their booze is your booze. It's the Communist ideal in practice and it works... if working means an entire town gets utterly rat-arsed for five days straight.

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