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The second stage of any Spain bullfight is the tercio de banderillas.
After the tercio de varas, the bugle is blown once again. Normally, each matador’s team of banderilleros performs this tercio, with the matador observing the proceedings from nearby in order to further study the bull. Eventually, if the matador is particularly skilled, he might place the banderillas. But it doesn’t happen often.
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As the picadores leave the ring, the banderilleros prepare themselves to face the bull. However, they don’t have a cape to distract the bull but banderillas. A banderilla is a pole with a metal point, similar to an arrow. Its name, small flag, reminds that it is decorated with colored papers.
During this stage, three banderilleros try to stick a pair of banderillas, one in each hand, in the bull’s shoulders. The banderillas are placed while the banderillero entices the bull to charge facing him. As the bull approaches, the banderillero runs in a curved line towards the bull, and at the point at which the bull and the banderillero cross paths, he leans over the horns to place the banderillas, avoiding being seriously gored by the bull.
Besides being a showcase of skill and courage, the banderillas often serve another purpose. The banderilleros‘ attacks further weaken the bull’s strength making him losing power. If it’s a real toro bravo (or fighting bull, a different species than regular cattle) it will charge with more vigor and rage.
At the same time, in a corrida de rejones, the rejoneador places up to six banderillas (also called rosetas). This tercio is exactly the same as the tercio de banderillas in classic bullfighting. The rejoneador may also use smaller banderillas to show his ability to approach the bull.
However, it’s during this stage that the rejoneador displays his skill and nerve, making the performance a spectacle similar to the matador’s faena during the tercio de muerte. The rejoneador may even decide to touch the bull’s head while it charges and pirouettes and other equestrian tricks.
The tercio de bandilleras is where the public will most evaluate the rejoneador performance.