Debate: Bulls or Bullfighters?

February 10, 2013
Debate: Bulls or Bullfighters?

It is said that Mexico is the Latin American country that is most like Spain, not only because of the Spanish conquest and colonization during three centuries by the Spanish Empire, but because of the subsequent waves of Spanish immigrants who decided to make Mexico their destination. In addition to language and Catholicism, the Spanish transferred some of their traditions, such as the fiesta brava or las corridas de toros. In English, these are known as "bullfights," a term which cannot encompass the sense of celebration and even what some consider to be the art form that surrounds the bullfights, as opposed to a sense of "fighting." Nevertheless, a debate recently took place in a very important region of Spain, Cataluña, which was held in the regional Parliament of Barcelona in order to abolish this national Spanish celebration. In the final vote among 135 members of parliament, 60 voted for abolition while 55 voted against it. Parliament's resolution went into effect on January 1, 2012. The owners of Plaza Monumental de Barcelona, the only plaza that was affected by this decision, will receive indemnification from the Catalan government in an amount anywhere between 300 and 500 million Euros. The debate pitted bullfighting enthusiasts against animal rights advocates. It is expected that other regions in Spain will see a similar debate, as is the case in Mexico. This is a subject for local discussion, meaning that every State can establish its own rules with respect to the continuation or abolition of bullfighting. Oaxaca, for example, a state with a notably indigenous, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic population and where dozens of languages are spoken, abolished bullfighting in the mid-nineteenth century when its then governor, Benito Juarez, , decreed its prohibition. No government in Oaxaca has attempted to modify such decree. In Mexico City, the Plaza de Toros México is the largest in the world. Given this city's great fondness for bullfighting, a debate on this issue has begun in the legislature of the Federal District. While a final resolution has not been issued, currently there is a proposed law that would prohibit bullfighting in Mexico City. Whenever such law has been discussed outside of the legislature, police have been called to intervene in order to prevent animal rights activists from entering into a conflict with bullfighting enthusiasts. Cries of "Bulls, yes, bullfighters, no!" can be heard. In Guanajuato, a state located in the middle of the country, a similar debate is taking place. In a recent session of the State House of Representatives, a PRI representative took the floor in defense of bullfighting dressed as a bullfighter, causing much commotion. The initiative to prohibit bullfighting is headed by the Green Party (Partido Verde Ecologista). Nevertheless, the PRI not only opposed the proposal, but demanded that the tradition be honored and that the fiesta de los toros be declared a cultural heritage. It is difficult for such initiatives abolishing bullfighting to be successful, as was the case in Barcelona, given the pressure by bullfighting enthusiasts and economic interests surrounding the fiesta de los toros: bull ranching, bullfighter associations and businesses in the bullfighting industry in various cities in Mexico.

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