Aficion means passion. An aficionado is one who is passionate about the bullfights. […] Somehow it was taken for granted that an American could not have aficion. He might simulate it or confuse it with excitement, but he could not really have it.Of course, Hemingway's character Jake, a stand-in for himself, is the one true American aficionado in the book.
When they saw that I had aficion, and there was no password, no set questions that could bring it out, rather it was a sort of oral spiritual examination with the questions always a little on the defensive and never apparent, there was this same embarrassed putting the hand on the shoulder, or a "Buen hombre." But nearly always there was the actual touching. It seemed as though they wanted to touch you to make it certain.The culture of the corrida is theatrically serious. The matador is judged for the fluidity and grace of his movements. If he does particularly well, he'll be presented with his conquest's ear. Likewise, a bull that fights the matador with enthusiasm and strength will have his lifeless body dragged around the circumference of the arena to honor his vigor. This summer, as I was walking the streets of Pamplona, where a million visitors descend for the festival each year, I noticed a shop selling Hemingway-branded red bandanas. The strange logic of American exceptionalism allows for any of us to think of ourselves like Jake: We can see our own throngs acting foolishly, walking with unfounded confidence into a messy world that we understand little of, and rarely consider ourselves as part of those other Americans. If we lack something, like passion or expertise or bravery, we usually will find someone selling an approximation of it, even if that's just a little square piece of red fabric with old Papi's white face printed on it.