Folium: The Dying Art of the Bullfight via Fathomaway

Folium: The Dying Art of the Bullfight via Fathomaway

Folium: The Dying Art of the Bullfight via Fathomaway
Creative Commons Image via The LEAF Project

Folium: The Dying Art of the Bullfight via Fathomaway

¡Olé! Spectators chant this exuberant cheer to show their appreciation during bullfights.  To this day, bullfighting remains a popular spectacle in Portugal, Southern France and numerous regions in Spain.

Bullfighting has existed since ancient times.  The oldest evidence of bullfighting is a wall painting, dated approximately 2000BC, discovered at Knossos in Crete.  The painting depicts two acrobats–one holding the horns of the bull and the other vaulting over the back of the bull.

Bullfighting was also popular in ancient Rome, but it was on the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal, and Andorra) where the sport of bullfighting developed as it is known today.  In 711 AD, the Moors from North Africa ravished the Spanish community of Andalusia.  During their time as conquering rulers, the Moors developed a fascination for bullfighting and converted the contests to a highly ritualistic sport, observed on special feast days.  Early bullfighting took place on horseback.  Men on foot developed skills with capes to help the horsemen position the bulls.  The crowds loved the cape work, and it eventually become part of the modern day Corrida (the Spanish word for Bullfight and the ceremony of the Bullfight).

People opposed to bullfighting believe it is cruel to sacrifice the bull at the end of the spectacle, while advocates of bullfighting argue it’s a traditional art form, embedded in Spanish culture, comparable to dancing and music.  However, the bull is not sacrificed at the end of every bullfight.  In Portugal, and in the Spanish regions of Navarra, La Rioja, Castile and Valencia, the bull returns safely to his pen at the conclusion of the performance.

Audiences in Catalonia have been dwindling for decades; bullrings rarely manage to fill a third of seating capacity and struggle to turn a profit.  In July 2010, following a petition by an animal rights group, Catalonia’s parliament voted to outlaw bullfighting, declaring the sport a barbaric practice.  The ban triggered a furor across Spain and a nationwide debate over the quintessentially Spanish tradition which has inspired artists and writers including Goya, Picasso and Hemingway.

Hemingway once wrote of the bullfights in Spain that it is “impossible to imagine the emotional and spiritual intensity and pure classic beauty that can be produced by a man, an animal, and a piece of scarlet serge draped on a stick.”

The debate between animal rights activists and those who believe the sport is part of Spain’s cultural and artistic heritage continues to this day.  Perhaps you should consider attending a bullfight and deciding for yourself!

Christine Gill
LEAF Contributor


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