We are in Lima, Peru. Built over 250 years ago, the Plaza de Toros de Acho is the oldest bullring in the Americas but not only: perhaps surprisingly, considering its New World location, it’s also the second-oldest active bullring in the world after the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza in Seville, Spain.
Already in 1765, a full 56 years before Peru declared its independence from Spain, Agustín Hipólito de Landaburu y Ribera, a wealthy landowner and colonial official in the Viceroyalty of Peru, decided to build a majestic bullring in Lima. So, he asked permission to construct what he called “a fixed plaza for the corridas de toros” that would take place in Lima during the city’s celebration of Carnival.
For the location he chose a raised piece of land about five miles from the coast, known locally as El Hacho. According to the Real Academia Española, hacho is a Quechua word meaning “a high place near the coast, from where the sea is well discovered and on which fire signals were used”, which is a whole lot of meaning in one short word.
Previously bullfights had been held here, but only in temporary rings. Landaburu had money to throw away, so he didn’t waste any time building the new plaza de toros, which opened on 30 January 1766. The inaugural run showcased the bullfighters Pisí, Maestro de España, and Gallipavo. Its first victim was one of Landaburu’s own bulls, named Albañil Blanco, meaning The Mason.
Since its inauguration, the steady flow of blood in the square has never stopped and bullfights continued also throughout the latter years of Peru’s War of Independence, when from 1821 to 1826 all proceeds from the fights were given to Peru’s liberating armies.
The 13,700-seater stadium, built of adobe and wood, was renovated once in 1944 due to deteriorated conditions, but there was barely a pause in the fighting. Although the work was generally considered successful in retaining the plaza’s beloved characteristics, at least one writer bemoaned the “fall” of the old plaza: “Solemn, silent and decrepit–like those old actresses burdened with years-old glories and fames–the old Plaza de Toros de Lima has fallen.”
Famous bullfighters continued to arrive from across the world to test their skills in the Plaza de Acho, among them legendary matadors like El Cordobés, Manolete, Juan Belmonte, and Luis Miguel Dominguín.
Despite all the current controversy surrounding bullfighting all over the world, events at the Plaza de Toros de Acho are as popular as ever. The world’s most notorious bullfighters still come to the Plaza de Acho, ensuring sold-out crowds including, occasionally, violent animal rights protests outside the stadium.
The main bullfighting season at the Plaza de Acho runs through October and November, when fights take place in honor of the annual Señor de los Milagros festival, one of the largest Catholic gatherings in the Americas.
Beyond fighting and controversy, Plaza de Acho is surrounded by an interesting local legend. Staff at the stadium tell tales of the ghost of Juan Suarez, a bullfighter who died in the arena when his skull was crushed by a bull. The rumors attracted the Ghost Hunters International team, who spent the night at the Plaza de Acho and came away, of course, with absolutely no proof of supernatural happenings whatsoever, which surprised precisely no one!
Images from Web.