Vila Franca de Xira

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, when it developed into two separate styles, the matador on foot becoming protagonist in Spain and the horseman continuing to play the leading role in Portugal. In Portugal the final kill was prohibited and the bulls' horns are blunted and covered with leather caps—a feature brought in under Dom José I (1714–77) after he saw the son of a marquis killed by a bull. Noblemen were discouraged from taking part in the spectacle, but bullfighting had become too popular to disappear, and their retinue of grooms and other helpers took the art over for themselves, most notably with the plebeian forcados literally taking the bull by the horns.

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