Not much is happening around the tiny island of Terceira, one of the nine islands of the Azores archipelago. Time passes slowly, people are relaxed, and the living's easy. Tourists spending here a few days easily can have their schedules fully packed with whale-watching, walking around different lava formations and beautiful lakes, or sleeping inside a crater and doing water & wind sports. However, if you happen to live here, every day is more or less the same. Except those when "tourada à corda" (bullfight by rope), a 400 year old traditional street bullfight, occurs.
Every year, from May until October, around 230 "touradas" happen in the streets, fields and beaches of Terceira. The Azorian version of bullfighting is not much like the more famous Spanish or continental Portuguese tradition. Here, the bull is controlled by a rope that goes around its neck, held by six people called "pastores". Pastores direct him and keep him inside the "playground". The intention is not to kill the bull, only to have fun. Each of bulls rest for at least 8 days after the fight.
"Touradas" usually happen in the afternoon, when people are back home from work. They get out of their houses, and wait for the spectacle. The brave ones come to the streets and get ready to run away if needed, and the others watch from the safe seats, on the balconies and windows. The atmosphere is unique. People scream, run, cheer for "pastores". It's much more than just a bullfight. It's a social event where people (most of them natives) meet, talk, have fun and look for a bit of adrenaline. Somehow, they look like football fans while passionately watching a game.
Sources say that the first known "tourada à corda" happened in 1622. The event was organised by the City Hall of Angra do Heroísmo (Terceira's capital), in honour of the canonisation of saints Francis Xavier and Ignatius of Loyola. Nowadays the tradition still attracts many young people, so no one is worried that it might become less popular.
If you decide to visit this island, besides watching a "tourada", you can do many other things. Here, you will find one of a few places in the world where you can go down to the interior of a dormant volcano (Algar do Carvão) or drive for kilometres alongside blooming Hortensia bushes along the road. Also, my favourite trail of all in the Azores: Mistérios Negros, is in this island.
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