It was Whitsun holiday in 1960 when a small group of us college students found ourselves touring through France, Spain & Portugal. We were fresh & young & eagerly looking forward to any new thrill & excitement to enrich our youthful experience. When in Madrid, the capital of Spain,we were attracted & drawn to their famous bullfight.
I remember it well & clear. It was a Sunday. Having obtained the tickets for the bullfight through an agent in the hotel, we made our way to the arena by way of jammed packed Metro, with standing room only & literarily squashed to the bones. However, we were willing to bear the discomfort for we really wanted to be part of this quintessential Spanish tradition at least once during our trip. We were told this was a special Sunday fight when the older matadors would be challenging a team of younger ones.
At the Plaza del Toros, the arena looks a lot like the Colosseum in Rome, and we were both struck by the make-up of the crowd jostling to get to the arena – old and young, men and women, rich and poor – the bullfight belongs to all, and is clearly as much a social event as a sporting spectacle.
The Spanish bullfight remains one of the most controversial forms of mass entertainment in the world. It is despised and revered in almost equal measure depending on whose opinion you seek. Yet this quintessential Spanish tradition is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France and several Latin American countries, in which one or more bulls are ritually killed in a bullring as a public spectacle. It is often called a blood sport by its detractors but followers of the spectacle regard it as a fine art and not a sport as there are no elements of competition in the proceedings.
Supporters of bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition and a fully developed art form on par with painting, dancing and music, while animal rights advocates hold that it is a blood sport resulting in the suffering of bulls and horses.
As it is in Spain today, this traditional spectacle is being endangered by the dwindling interest or a recent ban on the sport in Catalonia. ‘Bullfighting belongs to Spain and that will always be the case. The young are more interested in football & tennis.
It was to us an electrifying experience – a riot of colours, especially red and sound that set our senses on edge. Trumpets sounded, blood poured, crowd cheered & jeered . . . every move,. Every turn, every expression of the matador and their compatriots is designed to engaged the crowd. It is a blood sport and in many respects cruel . . . but seriously compelling & thrilling!
But what do you think?
- Spanish Region Votes To Ban Bullfighting (news.sky.com)
- Factbox: Spain’s bullfighting tradition stirs debate (reuters.com)