Thursday, April 7, 2011

Los Toros! Bullfighting in Spain

A lot of people associate Spain with Bullfighting and flamenco dancing. Of course there is so much more to Spain, and Spaniards often make it a point to address that fact immediately to any foreigner. Most resent the stereotype. I hadn't really given it much thought but the subject of bullfighting in particular came up several times last week and I thought I'd explore the topic a bit..

My roommates and I were watching a program about expatriates in other countries (unrelated sidenote: I have an odd attachment to the word "expatriates", it makes me think of Hemingway and the romantic notion of artists in Europe during the early/mid 1900s. *sigh* Related sidenote: Hemingway was a notorious bullfighting aficionado). The program on TV was discussing bullfighting-"Los Toros"-and interviewing the matadors. My roommate, Patricia, scoffed and denounced the spectacle. The other roommate, Ignacio, retorted with dismay and with talk of what an "art" it is! They asked about my thoughts on the matter. Well, I didn't know much about bullfighting believe it or not. Yes, here I am in Spain and I have no clue. Of course I am opposed to the general idea of it; taunting animals for pleasure just isn't something I'd ever support. But again-didn't know much about it. So as the program delved deeper and showed images of bullfights my position on the subject grew quite strong and I am here to announce: bullfighting es una mierda! It's awful. Cruel and heartbreaking would be the best word to describe it.
Bullfighting is almost non-existent here in the North of Spain where I live, mostly it's down South.
For those who don't know, here's a brief summary of what bullfighting entails in Spain..

Bullfighting here is called "corrida de toros" (running of the bulls) or "la festival" (the festival).
There is a whole entourage involved in bullfighting and it's highly ritualized. The main players in the game, to use the expression loosely, are the "picadors", "bandarilleros", and the matadors. The bandarilleros and the matadors are collectively called "toreros" (bullfighters). When the bull first enters the arena it is tested for ferocity by the toreros. Then the picadors march out on horseback and their role is to drive a lance (sometimes plural) into the bull's back to fatigue the bull's neck muscles, straighten it's charge, and lower it's head.
The horses aren't without danger either; horses' injuries include broken ribs and damage to internal organs. In the next stage the three banderillos each try to jab two "banderillas"-which literally means "little flags" but are actually large barbed harpoons-into the bull's shoulders to further weaken the animal. Like so:

That red stuff? Yeah that's blood. What an art.

Ends of banderillas

People get pleasure from watching this?

Sometimes the matador will plant his own banderillas, but he does it in his own elaborate style which adds to the "flair" of the bullfight.
In the last stage, the matador enters with the traditional red cape and a sword. He then commences in the dual which involves of course waving the cape in front of the bull and having him charge at it. This serves the purpose of not only creating the crowd pleasing main display of bullfighting but also of wearing down the animal for the final kill. At last he uses the sword, known as "estoque", to give the final jab into the bull's aorta or heart and kill him.

Needless to say, I am simply aghast at the fact that we still participate in such cruel and primitive traditions. Bullfighting to me is little more than a crowd getting off at watching a man fuck with a poor beast, torturing & killing him. 

There are, thankfully, bullfighting protests in Spain. Here are a few images:
Naked Spaniards form a slain bull
Torture isn't culture

Most people that I've spoken to here in Galicia are opposed to bullfighting. But there's a lot that I've heard now to justify it-and justifying is exactly what it is.  Many call it an "art"' as my roommate had, they talk of Spanish tradition, of the torero's bravery, the "dance" between man and beast, a flirtation with death, an important part of the culture, a beautiful spectacle, etc

Well, you saw some images of bullfighting now, you can decide for yourself how beautiful it is.

If you're interested you can check out this nonprofit's site for more information & support their cause.

I also highly recommend giving 3 minutes of your time to this excellent and poignant youtube video about bullfighting:

So, that's my take on bullfighting. Horrible, isnt' it?
It's hard to be a part of a world filled with such barbaric practices.
I wonder if I'm missing something here; am I? I don't think so. I don't think you can look at this as anything but cruel, if you have any empathy in your heart at all.

Well, adios & hasta pronto...

1 comment:

elizabeth said...

I completely agree. I don't see how torturing an animal, in any form, could be thought of as an "art" form, regardless of cultural tradition. Yet, animal sacrifice and cruelty to animals has been present for thousands of years. Makes you wonder how anyone allows it to exist at all. It seems the amount of cruel, heartless people outweigh the amount of people who actually have souls...