While me and Emanuele were deciding whether to go up North and photograph Braga’s Semana Santa I receive a message from him: “Why don’t we go to the Capeia?“. The Capeia he was mentioning is the Capeia Arraiana (link in Portuguese only), and until one year ago I had no idea what it was, I even had no idea there was bullfight tradition in that part of Portugal, an area in the North of the country and far away from the Tejo basin and Alentejo where bullfighting is ever present. After seeing his photos from the trip in the previous Summer with our friend Mitchell Kanashkevich I kept that very high in my list, and I guess Emanuele knew that when he sent me this challenge. And by looking at the calendar we quickly realized all the photography we wanted to do in Braga would be over by Holy Friday, which meant that, with a badly slept night, we could leave the end of the Semana Santa behind and drive south to catch the planned events for the weekend.
The Capeia is a very specific kind of bullfight that takes place in the villages of a small region in the upper Côa valley, close to the border of Spain. It begins with several horsemen (and a significant audience) gathering in the morning at one of the pastures around the village where the Capeia will take place, after a light snack the encerro starts: the bulls are surrounded and led to the arena, in what is one of the most eye-catching moments of the day, where they arrive in full speed, blazing through those who found the best spot to watch them pass by. At the arena, a small crowd is gathered, and for such a remote part of the country the diversity of languages is curious, with the legions of Spanish that enjoy a great bullfight (wherever that is) or the immigrants in France that return with the single purpose of attending it.
With the “procession’s” arrival, and just before lunch, the bulls are quickly trialed (Boi da prova), to test their temper and bravery in order to choose the best ones for the afternoon’s main event. Later, in the main event there’s one centerpiece: the forcão, a massive wooden frame build with tree logs, handled by twenty or more men, with carefully given roles within the structure: some support the weight, others handle it towards the bull, and there’s always someone giving directions. This goes on until sunset, several times during the event; outside the boundaries there’s are all the common elements of a sporting event: the beer, the fast food trailers or the ice-cream stand, but inside it’s eye to eye with the bull.