Forget Cataluña’s vote…bullfighting’s here to stay

 

For anyone who’s jumping up and down in delight at the decision of the Cataluñan regional government to ban bullfighting, thinking that this signals the end of corrida in Spain, I suggest you make yourself a cup of tea, take a tranquillity pill and have a sit down, because believe me, sugar, it ain’t going to make the slightest bit of difference to bullfighting in Spain.

 The whole bullfight debate in Cataluña was more a stab at Central Government and their refusal to let Cataluña set itself up as a separate nation state than a philanthropic ideal to cosset a few bulls. The only bullring in Cataluña is in Barcelona, which rarely has more than twelve to fifteen bullfights a year, ranking it lower than many village bullrings. No-one has ever taken bullfight in the north-east region of Spain seriously, so banning it isn’t really going to make a big hole in the support it has nationally.

The vote was so narrow 68 for to 55 against, that most people expect another vote to be taken at a later date. What hasn’t been reported, though, and would stick a few bums in the faces of the animal-rights activists that signed the petition and forced the vote, is that nowhere in the bill banning the corrida does it mention the bous al carrer, a far more terrifying experience for the bull, and one that affects thousands of bulls each year in Cataluña, not the forty or so that would make an appearance at the Barcelona bullring, La Monumental.

The bous al carrer is the generic name for any bull-running through the streets. The Fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona is the most widely known, but the same rampant charge takes place in every one horse-town (or, in this case, one-bull town) during the fiestas patronales, the annual holiday in honour of the patron saint of the town or village. Each will have its own variant – in Dénia, on the Costa Blanca, the bull chases local lads and lasses along the quay, often following them into the sea as they jump to safety (in this case it’s known as the Toros a la Mar); in Rubielos de Mora, in Teruel Province, the bull is attached to a long rope, so the crew of white and blue-clothed young village lads can (supposedly) control its headlong career through the streets – but the essence is that groups of youths goad the bull into charging them and then dash for safety. But even this has its drawbacks, because every year there are a number of gorings, usually of older people who weren’t quick enough on their feet to get out of the way. More often than not they are fatal, so I suppose the animal rights types would say that at least the bull got the upper hand that time.

What those terribly caring councillors and animal lovers of Cataluña failed to comment on, or include in the ban, was the toros embolaos, a terrifying and heart-tearing savagery afflicted on the bull. Sometimes known as the ‘Toro de Fuego’, or fire bull, this is a night-time event, where flammable cloths are attached to the bull’s horns. As one English-language site, which really should be ashamed of itself, says, that it’s ‘not only making it more boisterous but also giving it an even more impending presence that is spectacular to watch, and terrifying and exciting in equal measures for the runners’. And what about the fucking bull! The terrified animal can’t shake off these blazing torches and is reduced to charging at anything that moves so that it can put them out – preferably, for me, in the rectum of the person who set fire to them in the first place!*

So why haven’t Cataluñan Parliament, those brave defenders of animal rights, banned the far more frightening bous al carrer and its derivatives, especially the flaming horns of the toros embolaos? For one very, very simple reason. Votes. And votes equal power.

The Nationalists can ban the corrida because it was never that important in Cataluña in the first place. But touch the local fiestas and they risk offending their grass-roots voters, on whom they desperately depend to keep them in power. Church and State are said to be the two mainstays of Spanish society, although the man in the street will tell you that the truth is that the mainstays of Spanish life are the fiesta and the siesta – and they won’t be given up lightly! To stay in power, the Nationalist party needs to hold on to the votes of the pueblos, and if they ban the bous al carrer and the toros embollados you can bet your bottom dollar that all the high-falutin’ members of the Catalan Parliament would be standing in line at the job centre next time voting came around.

So, all you animal-rights slobberers, don’t get your hopes up. Go and focus your energies on helping some poor little bunnikins somewhere, because even on your best day, when you think you are the collective Goliath agin’ the corrida-supporting David, just remember what happened to that big hulk. The Spanish are a strange folk – and you don’t mess with their history or culture with impunity.

*The first death this year in the Valencian region during the bous al carrer, occurred in Godella, during the toros embolaos when a 46-year old man had his aorta severed in the early hours of August 1st. He had twice been removed for being drunk from the enclosure where the  toros embolaos took place , but on his third attempt he was gored by the bull as he tried to take refuge behind a lamppost. The local governement recently declared the fiestas in Godella  as being Bien Interés Cultural, of Cultural Interest, although neither the bull nor the family of JCR, the dead man, might necessarily agree. Last year four people died and 270 were injured in the Valencian region during the bous al carrer.

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered

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