The Sun Also Rises… For Bulls

· Culture, Latin America
Is dying the bullfighting spectacle?

Is dying the bullfighting spectacle?

If many see the Spanish-style-bullfighting as an element of the Spanish traditions and remember how Ernest Hemingway liked it, it is time to be worry, because time by time the corrida de toros has less friends in the Spanish word.

At least in Colombia every city has its own bullfighting plaza and its own schedule of annual fiesta where bulls and toreros attract thousand of fans of this ancient spectacle of the Spanish culture. The most important plazas are located in Bogotá, Medellín, Manizales, Cali and Barranquilla. Especially the bullfighting plaza of Manizales became in the 20th century the most important one of the Colombian bullfighting art, as it can be called. But out of plazas, several Colombian towns are traditional centers of bullfighting through their streets every year, at the same style of provinces like Almería, Málaga, Huelva, Córdoba, Cádiz and Jaén in Spain.

However, the Fiesta Brava is not attracting only admirers as before. In the last years it attracts many movements that are refusing it as cruelty against bulls and talking about the rights of animals.

While Bogotá is getting ready for its own bullfighting this year, Anima Naturalis, an international organization, moved this weekend its people to make a demonstration against the corridas. The Lourdes Plaza of the capital of Colombia saw a group of persons, almost naked and with bull swords on their backs with simulated blood, laid on the floor as a sign of refusal for bullfighting, considered as an activity against the rights of animals.

The animals have the right to live

The demonstrators showed banners asking to stop the use of public funds to support the organization of bullfighting in the city. By his part, Andrea Padilla, a leader of that organization in Colombia, said to Caracol Radio:

“Los animales también tienen derechos fundamentales, como el derecho a la vida, a la libertad, y lo mas importante a no ser torturados”.

“The animals have also their fundamental rights as the right to live, to freedom and the most important, the right not to be tortured”

“Es una vergüenza que se sigan destinando dineros públicos para un espectáculo privado. No entendemos como la Lotería de Bogotá, la Empresa de Teléfonos y la Alcaldía misma, siguen financiando las corridas de toros”.

“It is a shame that they continue to give public funds to private spectacles. We do not understand how the Lottery of Bogotá, the Telephones Enterprise and the same Municipality continue to finance the bullfighting.”

But this is not the first time that an organization like Anima Naturalis protests against the old traditional spectacle of bulls. In 2008 a group of activists in favor of the rights of animals, asked major Alonso Salazar to suspend the corridas under the same reasons. And it is not a Colombian feeling at all. Other Spanish countries are facing the same phenomena in a time where ecology became so much important to reach the setting of a “rights of animals” in similar terms to “human rights”. In 2005, El Mundo newspaper of Spain reported that 453 thousand persons signed a document for Ernest Bencha, president of the Parliament of Barcelona against the bullfighting of Catalonia. They sent a copy to personalities like Dalai Lama and Paul McCartney (“Entregan casi medio millón de firmas contra los toros”, El Mundo, 04.07.2005).

The discussion

The discussion is strongest than we can imagine. In a side of the arena we find the defenders of the corridas and fiesta brava as an spectacle and the inheritance of an old tradition that belongs to our Hispanic identity. At the other site the defenders of ecology and protection of rights of animals.

For Álvaro Gaviria, in a blog of the Medellinian newspaper El Colombiano, it is the reason to promote the extinction of bull fighting:

“He escuchado las más variadas razones para justificar el mal llamado arte taurino pero ninguna le hace justicia a la infausta bestia; el consenso entre los tauromacos es que simplemente esta destinada a un victoreado tormento y un apoteósico fallecimiento”.

“I have heard the most various reasons to justify the bad call bull art, but no one gives justice to the infamous best. The conclusion of the bullfighting lovers is that it is destined to a victorious torment and a glorious death” (“De la tauromaquia y otros excesos”, ¿De qué habla la gente? Pacho Jaramillo, EC Bloger,, 02.14.2009.)

About those who defend the Spanish bullfighting, the reasons are naturally reduced to enjoyment of a spectacle that is even considered an art and a sport. The ritual involved, the importance of the torero and the matador, the role of the public, everything comes to form a great frame for an old tradition that came to the Americas five centuries ago. To kill the Fiesta Brava is for many to kill the cultural identity of those nations that are related by the Iberian conquerors of the 15th century.

But when common folk can not get an agreement, we look for the opinions of famous. One of the most popular admirers of bullfighters was the US journalists and writer Ernest Hemingway (1899 — 1961.) In 1925, Hemingway saw the popular Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain and it marked his fascination with bullfighting. He wrote then “Fiesta” or “The Sun Also Rises”, published in 1926.

In 1933 published “Death in the Afternoon” in a work that was reviewed by Tomás Orts-Ramos as “a highly successful effort to distance the corrida from all that is primitive and barbarous, and to attract more fans in the English speaking world.” Orts-Ramos, different to Hemingway, was an intellectual enemy of bullfighting and his critic on the work of the American writer was to show his intention to clear bullfighting from negative considerations.

Hemingway wrote in his “Death in the Afternoon”:

“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.”

Near to our time, we have an other great enemy of bullfighting: the Colombian writer Fernando Vallejo. As for Vallejo, famous for his polemic declarations, corridas is the expression of decadency and the most popular act of cruelty against the animals. In his polemic statement on the visit of King Juan Carlos de Borbón to Colombia in 2007, Vallejo wrote some considerations about bullfighting: he made a particular description of the cruelty used for the entertainment of bullfighter loves in the most important plazas of Spain. As for the Spanish countries in the Americas, he claimed that this tradition is just a sign of ignorant imitation.


According with an old report of GALLUP in 2002, Spain, the motherland of bullfighting, the interests for this spectacle was already low. In that time, only 31 percent of Spaniards said that they like bullfighting. The report was published as a conclusion of a 30 years long study in the development of the interest of Spaniards for this activity.

The interest in bullfighting has decreased gradually. For example, in the 1970s the love for bullfighting was of 55 percent; in the 1980s got a slight fall to 50 percent and in 1990s it came to be 30 percent. Without results for this present time, we can presume that the number must be even smaller, while the pressure of ecological groups and movements should be more disastrous for the arenas. We have to consider the popularity of a global campaign on animal protection in any mean of communication. The impact of programs like Animal Planet, National Geographic and their numberless versions and imitations in every country and region, are educating new generations ready to see animals as “brothers”, as the favorite expression of writer Fernando Vallejo.

According to GALLUP, the preference for bullfighting is already a thing of elders and this proves our statements: the report shows that 44 percent of those who like bullfighting are older than 55 years old and 51 percent are older than 65 years old. In consequence, younger people than 24 years old are the less interested in the Spanish spectacle and we are talking about Spain.

Under this perspective, is possible to predict that generation by generation the probabilities of survival for bullfighting will be reduced until its probable extinction. In this way, the protests of animal rights protectors is actually against a dying spectacle that would be soon just history of our Spanish traditions, at least its admirers can demonstrate to this generation that bulls actually enjoy “to be killed on the arena for the enjoyment of humans.”


1 Comment

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  1. Maru Vigo

    Bullfights are despicable forms of sick entertainment and they should be erradicated from the face of the earth!
    They are NOT a representation of the true culture of Spanish speaking countries. They only bring shame to Latin America!

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