It is said there are two occasions for which Mexicans arrive on time: funerals and bullfights.
Bullfighting is a recreation, not a sport. The bull is outnumbered seven to one and the outcome is never in doubt. Even if the matador (literally, killer) fails in his duty, his assistants will entice the bull away and slaughter it in private beneath the stands.
Moreover, Mexicans don’t call it a “bullfight”; it’s the corrida de toros, during which six bulls are customarily slaughtered, beginning at 5 p.m. (4 in the winter). After the beginning parade, featuring the matador and his helpers, the picadores and the banderilleros, the first bull rushes into the ring in a cloud of dust. Clockwork tercios (thirds) define the ritual: the first, the puyazos, or “stabs,” requires that two picadores on horseback thrust lances into the bull’s shoulders, weakening it. During the second tercio, the banderilleros dodge the bull’s horns to stick three long, streamered darts into its shoulders.
Trumpets announce the third tercio and the appearance of the matador. The bull—weak, confused, and angry—is ready for the finish. The matador struts, holding the red cape, daring the bull to charge. Form now becomes everything. The expert matador takes complete control of the bull, which rushes at the cape, past its ramrod-erect opponent. For charge after charge, the matador works the bull to exactly the right spot in the ring—in front of the judges, a lovely señorita, or perhaps the governor— where the matador mercifully delivers the precision estocada (killing sword thrust) deep into the drooping neck of the defeated bull.
Benito Juárez, as governor during the 1850s, outlawed bullfights in Oaxaca. In his honor, they remain so, making Oaxaca unique among Mexican states.