At the Grande Corrida de Toiros, the annual bloodless bullfights hosted by Irmandade Portuguese da Festa do Espirito Santo at the group’s Campo Pequeno bullring on Ninth Street, the bull still had the advantage in one match Friday, June 8.
The forcados — men who tackle the bull bare-handed at the end of the match — lined up and braced for the attack. The charging bull lifted up the first man in the line and plowed into the other seven, scattering them like bowling pins against the ring wall.
Matthew Parreira, 24, of Turlock, the third man in line, took the brunt of the charge.
His teammates carried him out of the arena and an ambulance crew checked him out for a possible broken sternum, but he declined a ride to the hospital and stayed for the rest of the night.
Parreira said injuries are just part of the job.
“This isn’t the first,” he said. “It won’t be the last.”
A smudge on his shirt showed where the bull’s nose hit his chest. The bull’s horn, cropped to remove the point, delivered an uppercut to his chin.
“I’ve probably been knocked out I don’t know how many times,” Parreira said. “I’ve had dislocated fingers, broken fingers, broken ribs, fractured sternum, broken nose. … I’ve had chipped teeth, scratches, bloody noses, swollen bruises, black eyes.”
The chance to be at the center of a Portuguese tradition makes it all worthwhile.
Forcados trace their role in the bullfights back to the days when men carrying poles tipped with metal crescents, called forks, protected members of nobility in the audience from bulls that escaped from the ring. In modern times, the forked poles are ceremonial, and forcados enter the ring with no weapons.
Bobby Costa, president of IPFES in Tracy, estimated that about 2,500 people went to Friday’s event, the culmination of the group’s weeklong Festa do Espirito Santo. Costa said bloodless bullfights have been part of the festa in Tracy since the 1940s, with the present bullring in place since 1985.
Aposento de Turlock and Amadors De Merced, the two forcado groups at Friday’s bullfights, faced off against four bulls.
Two other bulls faced the cavaleiros — men on horseback — including Alberto Conde of Portugal and Jorge Hernandez of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and the matador, Fernando Labastida of San Luis Potosi.
Unlike in traditional bullfighting, the participants try not to injure the bulls. A cavaleiro leads the bull on a chase around the ring. His colorful spears are tipped with hook-and-loop fabric that sticks to a target on the bull’s back.
The bulls then face a matador, who also aims fabric-pointed spears at their backs.
Before long, the bull is tired, but no less aggravated. That’s when the forcados enter the ring.
Aposento de Turlock captain Tony Machado of Turlock said a bull typically weighs between 1,000 to 1,500 pounds, about the equivalent of eight strong men.
“We conquer them Portuguese style: weight versus weight and power versus power,” Machado said.
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