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One of the Classic Spanish Traditions – What Should Become of Bullfighting?

The art of bullfighting, known as corrida del toro (running of the bulls) or fiesta brava (the ferocious festival), dates back as far as Roman times. The bullfight as it exists today was first conducted in 1726 by Fransisco Romero from Ronda, Spain. It is a subject that has spawned much controversy over its almost 300 year history and one that continues to do so to this day. There are those who would argue that it is a time honored tradition, and a cornerstone of Spanish culture. Others would say that it is a cruel and callous sport to be despised despite its cultural heritage. It has been banned by Popes, and praised by Kings, and still there is no clear answer as to how we should view this poetic, yet always brutal sport. I thought I would offer a few quotes that I think capture the sentiments of both sides:

“Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honour.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Death in the Afternoon

“While I normally don’t take pleasure in other people’s misfortune, I have to admit that injury to people in the act of tormenting an animal gives me great joy.”

-Animal Rights Activist

Both effectively make their point, and I think that both sides certainly have good arguments on the matter. Over the years, the population of Spain has increasingly turned away from the bullfight, but it still persists as much as ever. 30% of Spaniards say that they are “somewhat” or “very interested” in bullfighting, while the other 70% show little to no interest.

In Barcelona, a symbolic vote was cast against bullfighting, and yet it still continues. A huge part of this results from 71% of tickets being purchased by tourists. What then does this say to the contention that bullfighting is an elemental Spanish tradition?

The fact that the matadors do put themselves in very real danger compels me in some senses. The renowned and celebrated matador Manolete was killed by the bull Islero in 1947, ending his illustrious career. And goring, although relatively infrequent, does happen. That being said, 30 matadors have died in the last 200 years of bullfighting, a miniscule number in comparison to the number of bulls that have perished in the ring.

At base value, I have a lot of respect for the skill and daring that it takes to be a successful and popular matador. I think that I can speak for most when I say that the prospect of having to kill a 1000 pound angry bull with nothing but a sword and a cape is fairly terrifying. Not to mention that the sport has undeniably been a part of Spanish culture for centuries. However, does that make it right? I couldn’t presume to say. I think perhaps bullfighting is one of those things that you actually need to see before you can truly pass judgment. For those of you planning to go to Spain, think about going to the fiesta brava, you might be surprised how you feel, one way or the other.

I’m sure plenty of you have opinions on this matter. It’s one of those subjects that tend to produce adamant, and often opposite reactions. I would like to hear some debate on the subject if people want to weigh in.

Safe Travels,

Ted Phelps

Customer Travel Consultant

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