My hubby and I have been together for nearly 28 years and in that time, I have learned so much about his Azorean culture.
It is steeped in traditions that his immediate and extended family still hold strong and dear.
The history behind The Portuguese Celebrations that SPF is part of is just one aspect.
Many of these Festas hold bullfights prior to the religious aspect.
Most are in a small ring and not elaborate.
BUT, Thornton is different.
In the Azores themselves, there are these types in the large city, but I had never been.
As I mentioned, there are 6 bulls.
After the Matador finishes showing his expertise and excellent horsemanship, the Suicide Squad enters the arena.
They are really called Forcado (kind of pronounced like fer-cyow)
Originally, these men were from lower classes and stood in the arena at the base of the stairs that led to the Royalty in attendance.
Their job was to keep the bulls from entering the stairs.
They carried long poles with a piece of steel at the top to assist.
This pole is a forcado, hence the name of this group in modern times.
There are several groups of these guys as you may notice by their garb.
Their job today is purely for show.
They perform the pega de cara which translates into face catch.
The head crazy man (forcado da cara ) puts on a long green knit cap and faces the bull.
He then moves CLOSER to the bull.
Until the bull charges.
These first pics are put of order, I was so worried about the first guy that I forgot to take pictures as he grabbed the bull's head.
When the bull charges, the lead man grabs onto the bull's neck and is carried forward until the remaining crazy men stop the bull simply by their brute strength.
One forcado grabs the bull's tail.
The others walk away, leaving the rabejador (tail guy) alone.
Thus, subduing said bull.
There are numerous authority figures around watching to make certain the bulls are not hurt in any way.
I am sure there must be a huge adrenaline rush for these guys, but still....crazy.
These men are part of something special.
It speaks to the strength of their culture and their desire to keep the old traditions alive and passed down from generation to generation.
I mean...why else?