Bullfighting: Fighting for its future
Bullfights and Flamenco. It’s hard to imagine Spain without either of its richest cultural activities. While one recently two-stepped its way to recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage cultural treasure, bullfighting finds itself in the ring against a generational divide, politics and a struggling economy, attempting to defend its history and tradition.
Bullfighting has been banned in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia, but travel south and you find that the tradition and support for bullfighting grows. Seville is no exception. And those involved in bullfighting, an event that finds its origins in the 18th century, recognize the battle they face. Nonetheless, they remain confident that the tradition will continue to thrive in the country’s thousands of bullrings.
“In Andalusia, no. Short term, medium term and long term, no,” says bullfighting journalist Álvaro R. del Moral regarding the possible prohibition of bullfights in Southern Spain. “Here things are very clear.”
If Del Moral’s prediction is to prove accurate, interest must remain high among one crucial demographic group: Spain’s youth. Aula Taurina, an organization run by high school teachers that promotes bullfighting to Seville’s younger crowd, passes along bullfighting passion from one generation to the next.
“From the beginning, the point of Aula Taurina was to bring bullfighters to the high schools and to bring the students to the countryside, so they saw bullfighters fighting in the countryside,” says Miguel Serrano, high school teacher and Aula Taurina chairman.
The organization was founded in 1986 as the first of its kind in Spain. Since then, La Real Maestranza de Cabellería de Sevilla, the historical society that owns Seville’s bullfighting ring, has sponsored Aula Taurina, funding its activities throughout the province. In 1994, the same group of teachers, sponsored again by La Real Maestranza, reopened Seville’s Bullfighting School, which had been closed since the turn of the century.
Serrano’s Aula Taurina offers students a fall course entitled, “The Basic Principles of the Bullfight.” During the spring, a handful of world-reknowned bullfighters lecture students. To culminate the “school year,” the organization holds a prize ceremony during Seville’s annual fair. Among the prizes: free season tickets awarded to students.
But not everyone can enjoy a bullfight for free, and Serrano has noticed over the years that the stadium doesn’t fill to capacity like it once did.
“In Seville, there are 800,000 citizens. It is very difficult for the bullfighting ring to fill every time with 10,000 spectators,” he says. “From the 800,000, 10,000 don’t come, nor 6,000, so it’s a sign that the amount of bullfighting fans isn’t as numerous.”
Serrano attributes this drop in attendance to a struggling economy and an increase in alternative forms of entertainment: “It has to do more with the habits of the kids,” he says. “Because today kids have a range, they have a lot of possibilities for fun. So there are a lot who stay home on the internet, others go to the movies, others play sports, others like to read.
“One of those possibilities is the bullfighting world. Today, the proportion is much less than before.”
As for the economy, Spain faces the highest unemployment rate in the European Union. Bullrings in bigger cities, like Seville, have had fewer problems, but in smaller towns with less significant fights, the bullfighting world is bleeding. Serrano says many local governments provide funds to organize bullfights or festivities, but because of the recession, in many cases this aid hasn’t arrived – leaving bullfighting not as a victim to ethics, but economics.
“If there is demand, there is supply,” Serrano says. “If the public stops attending bullfights, the bullfighters aren’t going to fight because they aren’t going to make money. The ranchers aren’t going to own bulls because they won’t make money, either.”
This is the second article in the three-part series on bullfighting in Spain, published every Monday by Iberosphere. The first is here.
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Published: Apr 4 2011
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=2456
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Tags: bullfight, bullfighter, bullfighting, catalonia bullfight ban, seville, spain culture, spain news, spain tradition, toros, unesco