Bullfighting: traditional spectacle/blood sport attracts young fans

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Warning: The audio slideshow below contains graphic images.

10 p.m. on a Wednesday, the Plaza De Toros is alive with the sounds of cheering fans. In the stands is, Isona donning a bright pink shirt and white shorts with her long brown ponytail. She is whistling, clapping and cheering on as the matador faces the bull. Her sister is in the band that plays during the fight—used not for entertainment but to time the fight. Her whole family are musicians from Masanasa and her dad proudly declares his love of bullfighting.

The culture of bullfighting in 2015 is complicated. On the one hand you have the very vocal, typically 20 to 30 year-old native Valencians who have never been to a bullfight and are totally morally against the act. On the other hand, the crowd at the bullfight on Wednesday, July 22 in Valencia comprised mostly of men and women in their late 40s and 50s and—surprisingly—children.

As we walked into the Plaza De Toros Le Valencia, we spotted several families. Women donned grocery bags full of Tupperware containers and men carried the beer and wine. Children ran around, apparently excited to be at the event—despite the gore and death that awaited the bull.

Before that night, when we would mentioned our plans to go to the bullfight, we got reactions like “Oh, que barbaridad,”—what barbarism. Other young Valencians would tell us that they have never been and never intend to because of how the bulls are treated.

It was a very different picture at the bullfight. Obviously, the people that attend the bullfights support them. One middle-aged woman spoke to us about the traditions and the way the bull is supposed to be killed. It’s not cruel, she said, because the bulls are bred well. Their skin is thick and can handle the hooks that the picadores stab into their backs at the half-way mark of the fight. A good matador will kill the bull with one blow—thus eliminating torture and prolonged pain for the bull.

The fight on July 22 was especially brutal for the bulls due to the inexperience of the matadors—they were young, 14 to 16 years old. The crowd did not wave white rags and papers of approval at the end of all but one fight.

Despite the spectacle that was not meeting the expectations of the crowd, the crowd remained attentive throughout all of the bullfights. Especially noticeable are the 6 to 15-year-old children that enjoy the spectacle with their families. Isona has been to three bullfights so far, and she loves them. Her father claims responsibility for her passion. The interesting part is that Isona loves the bulls as animals, but also enjoys seeing them killed. This concept resonates with the idea that Spanish culture has respect for the bulls that are killed in the bull fights. The other side argues that it is no way to respect an animal whose life has no other path other than death.

The culture versus conscious debate is incredibly fascinating and not close to resolution; definitely one to follow.

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