Abrivado-Bandido in Provence: A Village Event
This past weekend, in our small town, there were constant animations of live music, parades, and lots and lots of bull running to celebrate Bastille Day. While visiting Provence, you must see one of these abrivado-bandido events.
Before the weekend tall steel barriers were installed all along the main road to protect against charging bulls. Announcements in just about every language are made to let people know that you just might find an enormous black bull on the road!
The abrivado-bandidos in Maussane occur in the late morning rather than in the evening. This is ideal as, although the young kids who’s job it is to try and stop the bull are younger, it doesn’t attract the heavy drinking pastis atmosphere of the older youths; leading to some pretty dangerous behavior! Last year, we lived in Noves and oh my the whole village smelled like aniseed. Not that I’m anyone to judge with my copious rosé drinking…
What is it?
The Abrivado-Bandido is where the bulls are let loose, to be encircled at a galloping pace with various gardians, or cavaliers from the Camargue region, on their native white Camargue horses. In Maussane, the first passage was 4 bulls encircled by 7 riders ensuing in varied amounts of bulls to riders. It becomes more and more dangerous until just one rider accompanies a bucking bull to the other side of the village. Then, at the end, there was an “à l’ancienne” announced on the loudspeaker. I didn’t know what this was at the time, but I could guess as everyone around me backed away further from the barriers. The “à l’ancienne” is where numerous bulls are let loose with only 1 or 2 riders galloping ahead. Thankfully, the bulls tend to follow the horses!!
The most dangerous part of this display is the job of the youths. Unbelievably, very young adolescents run after the bulls; which are encircled by galloping horses, and try to stop the bull (Attrapaïre in Provençal) in it’s tracks by jumping on it, holding onto it’s horns, and most commonly pulling on it’s tail. These bulls are enormous and can be deadly. Just last year a 16 year old boy in the neighbouring town was killed. The first passage was dedicated to him. I noticed that the sharp ends of the bull’s horns are filed down, but that only decreases the danger slightly.