Each year, some 120 towns and cities in Colombia’s Atlantic region host festivals, known as Fiestas en Corralejas – “Corral Parties,” in Spanish. An average of one man dies, gored to death, per event. As the popular saying goes – “If there’s no death, it’s not a Corraleja.”
Harkening back to the Roman Circus, the very origin of bullfighting, the Corraleja takes place in a hastily built two-tiered ring, with a balcony whose seats cost 15,000 to 25,000 pesos (6-10 dollars) and a ground level costing 1000- 1500 pesos (35 – 60 cents) to enter. Members of the local elite seated in the balcony – mainly ranchers and their families – watch desperately poor men, drunks, thrill-seekers, and macho teenagers in the ring below provoke the bull to charge. The bulls are special to the Corrralejas – huge beasts, with sharpened horns, bred to be fast and fierce. The Corraleja is a gruesome blood sport that features, as a main attraction, severe gorings and often death.
The bulls live on to fight again – the more experience a bull has in these rings, the more dangerous it becomes, and thus more of a crowd pleaser down the line. Those who taunt the bull with capes, who try to leap over it, or who sit on the ground as it runs them over, are paid by contract some $200 dollars for four afternoons of stunts, plus what other money the balcony throws down to spur them on. If they get hurt, but can still walk, they go up to the balcony to display their wounds and ask for tips. If they get hurt, and can’t walk, or if they die – tough luck for them.