Before I start on today’s post, I must first stress that my opinions are not representative of those of the website for which I write this blog. The people here at andalucia.com allow me to express my own point of view freely, but it is my personal point of view, and does not necessarily mean that the management of the website agrees with me.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s to the nub of the matter. Los toros. La fiesta. La liria. La corrida. I finally went to one. Someone offered me free tickets so, as they rightly pointed out, ´´Now you have no excuse not to go.’’ It all happened the same day, so I didn’t have too much time to dwell on it, either. And anyway, the bullfight itself nearly didn’t take place, as it poured all day, right up until just before things got started – even after they rolled back the Wimbledon-style ground-cover, the heavens opened again, a groan went through the crowd, and the brollies went up (Wimbledon-style). The men selling bright-blue raincoats were making a killing (if you’ll excuse the expression, Mr Toro). Fortunately our seats were just under the covered area, so we didn’t get soaked.
I had been assured by aficionados, and even by a matador himself, that you have to go to a bullfight to understand what it’s all about, hear the music, experience the atmosphere, see the colourful suits, and, most importantly, get the connection between the bull and his nemesis. Then you can make your decision, about whether you like it or not, whether it is barbaric or arte.
Any event which is traditional, popular and part of a highly-anticipated festive season – bullfighting isn’t called a sport here, but it’s the closest comparison I can think of – will always have a great atmosphere, as friends greeting each other, people stock up on snacks (sunflower seeds and almonds), find their seats, get settled. The collective groan and cry of “¡Agua!“ when it starts raining, the murmur of excitement as the players enter the ring…
I won’t go into detail about the various stages of a bullfight, who does what, when, and with what, as there are plenty of people who will no have desire whatsoever to read about it. It starts off with music, and men dressed in sparkly costumes on horses and on foot. Everyone takes a turn around the bullring, and then the bull itself makes it appearance. For those who do want all the gory details, there are plenty of places where you can get your fill of information, Hemingway included. As I said in a previous post, either you`re with it or you’re against it, and there’s no room for in-betweeners.
All I will say is that anything which involves making an animal bleed, suffer, run around terrified, trying to escape, and then die a slow, agonising death watched by thousands of people, is not something I want any part of. I stayed for two bulls (out of six), neither of which was despatched efficiently or rapidly (I only stayed for the second one to see if someone could do a better job than the first guy, who was quite experienced. He couldn’t – he botched it too).
Again my attention was drawn to a newspaper article defending the sport (for sport it is, art it most definitely is not), written by none other than Mario Varga Llosa, the Peruvian writer. What an absolute gift to a blogger they are, these pieces expounding the beauty, grace and elegance of the fiesta, defending it as an integral part of Spanish tradition and culture.
Let me quote you some of the esteemed writer`s more sweeping comments: “the bulls represent a form of spiritual and emotional nourishment, as intense and rich as a Beethoven concert, a Shakespeare comedy or a Vallejo poem.“ No, sorry, don’t get it.
He goes on to say that if bullfighting is prohibited, that would be “abusive and hypocritical’’, and that the “restriction of freedom, the authoritarian imposition on taste and affiction… would go against a fundamental essence of democratic life – freedom of choice.“
Woah, boy, we’re not talking about the right to demonstrate, express political opinions or vote here. We’re talking about the right to watch an animal get tortured to death, for the pleasure of people. There’s a difference. And what about the animal’s right to freedom?
Then he tries a philosophical tack – death is part of life, and it gets us all in the end. Right, Mr Vargas Llosa, but would you like to meet your maker with a sword stuck so far into your body that it comes out the other side? And even then it takes another one to finish you off? No, I didn’t think so.
The arguments about it being a long-standing tradition, and the right to choose to watch it, I can just about understand, not that I agree with them. At all. But don’t try to justify it, because it is not justifiable. Especially not that old chestnut about the toros bravos (fighting bulls) being “the best cared-for and treated animals in all of creation.“ You can feed it all the beer and give it all the daily massages it can take, Kobe beef-style – doesn’t change the fact that, in the end, it will die a painful death for others’ entertainment.