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This tiny island (five miles long and half a mile wide) is known as the Island of Women. Isla Mujeres is a 25-minute ferry ride from downtown Cancun and despite its popularity with day-trippers from the mainland has retained its laid-back atmosphere. The preferred activity here is lounging on the beach with drink in hand and the perfect place to do this is at Playa Norte where the sea is a calm as a lake and waist deep for the first 35 meters (100 yards). It’s also the perfect place to watch the sunset. Playa Paraíso and Playa Lancheros on the western shore are also pleasant spots for swimming and sunning. At the southern most point of the island is Garrafón Marine Park where you can snorkel along some of the famous coral reefs. The eastern side of the island has spectacular wind-swept beaches.

Dining on Isla is a treat with menus that offer a variety of fresh fish, lobster, shrimp, and conch along with great pizza, steaks, sandwiches and hamburgers. Shopping is equally as fun – you can wander through the cobbled streets of downtown looking at the shops selling everything from t-shirts to Mexican crafts. Isla is well known for its finely crafted jewelry created by local artisans. Ferries run from downtown Cancun (Puerto Juarez) For more information check out our www.visitislamujeres.com.

Each bullfight comprises six bulls and three matadors, each of whom fights two bulls. The bulls are specially bred fighting bulls, usually from the same bloodline and are not less than four years old with a weight somewhere between 500 and 800 kilos. They must never have faced a man on foot before they enter the bullring. The reason being that if this is the case, they may charge the man, instead of the cape. The selection of bulls is determined by drawing lots on the morning of the corrida. The toreros perform in order of seniority with the senior matador going first and fourth, the second-ranked matador second and fifth and the least experienced fighting third and sixth. If a matador is gored and unable to continue, the senior matador must take his place and complete the fight. Each bullfight is divided into three stages of thirds and lasts for around 20 minutes. A corrida starts with a parade of all the contestants and bailiffs dressed in 17th century costume, who salute the president of the fight. The president is an important official who controls the fight and can award trophies to a matador who performs well. A trumpet is blown to announce the first fight when the matador and his team enter the ring, and to signal the end of each stage. The bailiffs receive the key to the gate which is thrown to them by the president of the bullfight, through which the bulls enter the ring. The president then waves a white handkerchief to signal the entrance of the first bull into the ring.

Preliminary Phase: During the preliminary phase the footmen, peones or capeadores work the bull with large magenta and gold capes while carefully appraising its agility, intelligence, dangers, sight and, most importantly, its strength. It's very important for the matador to determine the animal's qualities such as whether it favours one horn or the other (eg hooks to the left) or swings its horns up at the end of each pass. Sometimes a bull is reluctant to fight in which case it will be tactfully withdrawn on the sign of a green handkerchief from the president.

First stage. This is when the picadores, mounted on padded and blindfolded horses provoke the bull to attack them. The aim is to plunge their lance into the bull's neck thus weakening its strong neck muscles. This causes it to lower its head without which the matador couldn't perform the coup de grace in the final part of the fight Second stage. When the bull has been sufficiently weakened by the picadores, the next stage commences, during which barbed darts decorated with colourful ribbons are placed in the bull's neck. The banderillero, carrying a banderilla in each hand, runs towards the charging bull at an angle and places the banderillas in its neck. These are not supposed to weaken the bull but rather correct any tendency to hook, regulate the carriage of the head and slow it down.

Final stages. The final stage of a bullfight is called the suerte/tercio del muerte and ends with the death of the bull. It begins with the matador removing his hat, saluting the president and asking for permission to perform and kill the bull. He may dedicate the bull to somebody in the crown. Sometimes the matador will toss his hat over his head, if it lands upside down, it is supposed to be bad luck. The matador creates a series of passes with his red cape (of which there are 40), bringing the animal closer to his body. The two most basic passes include the right handed pass in which the sword is used to expand the cloth and the left handed 'natural'. After each pass the crowd usually shouts Olé!.

The kill. When the matador realizes the bull is weak and unable to charge much longer he will reach for his killing sword and seek to maneuver it directly in front of him with its head down, so that he can administer the death stroke. The matador looks down the sword to sight the target, leans over the horns and attempts to insert it between the cervical vertebra and into the bull's heart.

Finale. If the matador has performed well and made a quick, clean kill he will be applauded, do a lap of honour and be showered with flowers, hats, cushions and anything else to hand. The crowd demonstrates its approval of a fight by waving white handkerchiefs which are a signal to the president to award the matador a trophy, such as an ear or tail. If the bull has put up a good fight, its carcass will also receive a lap of honour and very occasionally if a bull is exceptionally brave or strong and the matador is unable to kill it, it may be spared and allowed to return to its stud farm to live out its life in peace.

 
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