My First Photo Essay At Everywhere Mag

Everywhere Mag is the latest creation from the publishes of JPG Mag. The basic idea is the same, the site’s registered users can upload photos and articles, other users vote for them and the best make it into the printed edition. But where JPG Mag covers all types of photography, Everywhere Mag is about travel.

It’s a cool concept that I like. Here’s my Photo Essay on Everywhere Mag:

La Fiesta de Casabindo, Argentina: Man Vs Bull

And here’s the article:

La Fiesta De Casabindo, Argentina: Man Versus Bull

After having read about the Toreo de Vincha in Casabindo, a yearly, weekend long celebration that combines elements of Christianity with pre-Colombian rituals and culminates in a bullfight, I knew that I just had to see it for myself.

So, my journey began. I gathered information when I took a day-trip on the Tren a las Nubes. One of the guides had been there. “Listen,” he said. “I went two years ago. I had a great time, but the only way to get to Casabindo, if you don’t have a car, is to hitch a lift on a truck from Abra Pampa. The trucks provide transit for people who have things to sell.”

Casabindo, I was learning, is a difficult trek. It’s breathless – 3500 metres or so high in the Argentinean Andes, in the remote province of Jujuy. The only access is by dirt track.

I made my way to Humahuaca, the nearest town on the tourist trail, and was fortunate to not only find a room, but a tour company taking a car to Casabindo. We arrived Sunday morning, after a bumpy three hour drive, in a small village of primitive mud-brick huts and a large crowd that included market vendors, photographers and even a TV camera crew.

Following a morning of ceremonies, the bullfighting commenced. Picture the scene: a lone torero (bullfighter) in the middle of a dusty plaza, a ragged piece of cloth in his hands, surrounded by people sitting jammed together on a low stone wall that surrounds the square. A large, black angry bull stares at the torero, dust billowing as it scrapes its front hoof on the hard ground.

The object is not, like in Spain, to kill the bull, but for the torero to prove his bravery by snatching a red headband sewn with silver coins (the vincha) from between its horns. The vincha is later given as an offering to the Virgin.

As the torero crouched, cloth in hand, he moved closer to the bull. Dressed in plain blue jeans and an old jumper, the bullfighter wasn’t a trained and sequin-suited showman like the Spanish bullfighters, but an ordinary villager.

Head lowered until its horns nearly scraped the ground, eyes glistening, the bull charged the torero. The first two bulls had been quite tame, almost disinterested, and the toreros had easily taken the vinchas. But this one was big and angry! The torero had a problem and I couldn’t see how he could get close enough to grab the vincha without being hurt or even killed. We watched awestruck as the torero approached the bull again and again, each time narrowly avoiding slashing horns or flaying hoofs by spinning away or fooling the bull with a wave of his cloth. Then, perhaps frustrated at not catching his prey, the bull turned towards the stone wall on the other side of the plaza, and charged, jumping it with a single powerful leap. He went straight through the spectators atop the wall, sending them flying backwards in a tangle of limbs, where they crashed to a landing on the other side, out of our sight.

We couldn’t see what was happening, but we heard screams and saw panicked movement. After about ten minutes all grew calm. Evidently no one was seriously hurt, because another bull was driven into the plaza for the torero. None of the other bulls were as angry or dangerous as the one we’d just witnessed and the bullfighting and vincha grabbing continued relatively peacefully until dusk.

This is a journey that will always remain etched in my mind.