Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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Ecuadorian Bullfight

It was early December and my five month study abroad experience in Quito, Ecuador was nearing an end but there was still one last celebration in which I needed to partake—Las Fiestas de Quito. A focal point of these festivities are the bullfights, which occur every day for nine days straight. It was very difficult for me to decide whether or not I should attend one of these events. I did not want to watch the bloody death of an animal but my Ecuadorian host family repeatedly told me that it was such a great cultural experience and I had to take advantage while I had the chance. Thus, as a cultural anthropology major, I decided to attend.
Up until December 5, 2009 I did not know what actually occurred at a bullfight and, while seated at the event, I was completely astonished at what I witnessed. Not one, but six bulls were murdered that day. And they weren’t just killed; they were teased, tortured, and then slaughtered. The first match was the most unforgettable—within fifteen minutes the matadors had stabbed the bull so many times that blood gushed out of its back and onto the ground. Nevertheless, the bull continued to run around in agonizing pain trying to catch that red cloth. I was literally on the verge of tears and quickly realized that it was one of the saddest things I’ve seen in my entire life. And believe me, I saw a lot of sad things during those months in Ecuador. But this was different. And while I was doing my best to hold back tears, thousands of onlookers in the coliseum continued to give their support to the matador by means of cheers and applause. I was overwhelmed with curiosity and confusion. I immediately decided I wanted to truly understand the history, meaning, and significance of the Ecuadorian bullfight.
Soon after my bullfight experience I realized that an analysis of this Ecuadorian tradition would be a great topic for my senior thesis. After living the Ecuadorian lifestyle for more than five months I began to understand the inner workings of the culture. However, my encounter with the bullfight left me perplexed and bewildered. I just could not grasp the purpose and significance of this “Ecuadorian” tradition when it is so obviously a Spanish tradition. My study abroad experience literally opened doors to other cultures, beliefs, ways of living and much, much more that I would never have encountered if I had not taken advantage of the experience. I am so grateful that I had this opportunity and will continue my study abroad experience while carrying out my senior thesis.

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