Sunday, September 06, 2015

El Toro

Plaza de Espana

My favourite place in Seville is the Parque de María Luisa, and the Plaza de España. For those of you who may be Star Wars fans, it featured as a city on the planet Naboo.  The amazing tile work is beautiful, and if you go to Seville, it is one of the ‘must see’ locations. My friend and I, visiting for a long weekend, went to the Bull Ring – the Plaza Del Toros.


Wooden heads used for jousting
This magnificent bullring is considered to be one of the finest in Spain and is one of the oldest and most important in the world. It took around a hundred years to complete, and it looks very much like the Coliseum in Rome. The 'Catedral del Toreo' is spectacular – and shows how little we have changed over the last 2,000 years. We were given a tour of the ring, that included a visit to the museum of bullfighting. ‘There are strict rules, the bull can only be fought for 20 minutes. Then it must be killed, so that there is humane treatment’ our guide said several times, somewhat defensively I thought. 

The history of the bullfight was interesting. Originally they took place in the streets, and the slain bull’s meat was given to the poor. Consequently, the people loved bullfights, because meat was a rare treat. One king decided that he would replace it with knightly sports – the hitting of target heads with a lance, or the grabbing of a ribbon from a ring – exchanging blood sports for skill sports. But this was very elitist, compared to bullfighting and, most importantly, there was no meat for the people. As soon as that king passed on, so did his noble jousting, and back came the bullfights.

Bull leaping
Humanity has a history of challenging the bull – an animal we admire yet seek to defeat. From the ancient bull leapers, to the contemporary Pamplona Bull run  and bullfights, we seem to want to show that we can outsmart these powerful animals. Perhaps that’s it – we don’t like to think that anything is stronger than us so we must show our superiority in other ways. I’m sure there is plenty of research on the psychology of hunters; perhaps a similar psychology applies to bullfighters. 

I understand how the spectacle, the bravery and the blood may appeal to some, but not to me. I was glad we visited and gained an understanding of the history, of how it evolved and why, for so many, it was (and is) so popular. But I remain against the practice of taunting, spearing, and killing of animals purely for our entertainment.  
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