Vila Franca de Xira is an excellent place to see Portuguese bullfights, known as the tourada, which are held from Easter through October. Although it's different from any version of this ancient spectacle in Mexico or Spain, Portuguese and Spanish bullfights have a common origin. Both forms were born in the Middle Ages in the struggle between Moors and Christians for the Iberian Peninsula, both were essentially arts of the nobility, and both were practiced by horsemen. Bullfighting remained essentially the same in Portugal and Spain until the middle of the 18th century. Its subsequent development into two separate styles, the matador on foot becoming protagonist in Spain and the horseman continuing to play the leading role in Portugal, was caused by the disapproval of Bourbon monarch Felipe V, who ascended to the Spanish throne in 1700. The king's French sensibilities were offended by the gore and violence of bullfighting, and he soon prohibited the practice. Spain's noblemen were forced to comply. Bullfighting, however, had become too popular to disappear. The horsemen noblemen's retinue of grooms and other helpers took the art over for themselves.
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