While me and EmanueleÂ were deciding whether to go up North and photograph Braga’s Semana SantaÂ IÂ receive a message from him: “Why don’t we go to the Capeia?“. The Capeia he was mentioning is theÂ Capeia Arraiana (link in Portuguese only), andÂ until one year ago I had no idea what it was, I even had no idea there was bullfightÂ tradition in that part ofÂ Portugal, an area in the North of the country and far away from the Tejo basinÂ and Alentejo where bullfighting is ever present. AfterÂ seeingÂ his photos from theÂ trip in the previous Summer with our friendÂ Mitchell Kanashkevich IÂ keptÂ that very high in my list,Â and I guess Emanuele knew that when he sent me this challenge. And by looking at the calendar weÂ quickly realized all the photography we wanted to do in Braga would be overÂ 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 ofÂ a small region in the upper Côa valley, close to the border of Spain. It begins withÂ several horsemen (and a significant audience)Â gathering in the morningÂ atÂ one of the pastures around the village where the Capeia will take place, after a light snack the encerroÂ 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,Â 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 braveryÂ in order to choose theÂ best ones for the afternoon’s main event. Later,Â in the main eventÂ 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 commonÂ elements of a sporting event: the beer, the fast food trailersÂ orÂ the ice-cream stand, but inside it’s eye to eye with the bull.