Souvenirs from Spain
Bullfighting (or corrida de toros in original Spanish), the tradition of baiting bulls and killing them in a special ring for entertainment purposes was developed in Spain, Portugal and South American countries to became massively popular. Whether it’s a form of entertainment, sport or art, it has been strongly contested by animal rights advocates for its cruelty or praised for its national symbolism. During corridas, toreros (or matadors) offer a show of different styles and techniques in a powerful display of colors and moves targeting the crowd’s excitement. In the end, the torero kills the angry bull with a single sword stab and with the help of the other bullfighters in the arena. This brutal tradition is still part of Spain’s rich heritage and one of its worldwide symbols; a resin fridge magnet souvenir celebrates this old ritual.
Bullfighting, an Ancient Tradition
The origin of corrida is ancient and includes the symbolism of bull sacrifice and worship in legendary Mithras. Cave depictions in Clunia, Spain are suggestive for a ritual involving both humans and bulls. But bullfighting is mainly connected to Rome’s history when the killing of animals in an arena was hugely popular. The Roman Emperor Claudius is said to have introduced bullfighting in the region of Hispania as a replacement for gladiator fights. From Spain, bullfighting spread to Spanish colonies in South America and even reached 19th century France. In medieval Spain, religious celebrations were accompanied by a bullfight held in a plaza which featured noblemen riders fighting for royal privileges. In 1726, bullfighter Francisco Romero changed the practice of corrida when he introduced foot fighting and gradually common people replaced the noblemen, Special arenas were erected to fit the new technique with the oldest bullfighting arena, Seville’s La Maestranza, built in 1765.
Corridas, a Ritual of Brutality
The current Spanish bullfighting style is the creation of the legendary toredo Juan Belmonte whose revolutionary moves performed at a very short distance from the animal increased the show’s popularity despite its increased risk factors. The current ritual of corrida follows the main rules of the 1726 style: a sword is used for the final bull killing and the muleta in the last moments of the fight. There are typically three different acts carefully staged to include band music, parading, horses and splendid toredo costumes, based on Andalusian traditional clothes with golden or silver decorations to differentiate the bullfighters’ ranks. The show includes well defined steps in angering the bull and finally killing it in a highly ritualized bloody scene. Three matadors are expected to fight two bulls each with the help of six assistants: two picadores on horseback, three banderilleros and a sword page.
Bullfighting between Controversy and Politics
Since the end of the 19th century an intellectual movement criticized the traditional corridas as pan y toros (‘bread and bulls’), a reference to the Roman panem et circenses (‘bread and circus’) which described the politicians’ populist way of offering cheap entertainment in exchange for a submissive population. During the Franco dictatorial regime, corridas were promoted as symbols of the pure Spanish spirit and they were often associated with the regime; later on, the democratic governments of Spain tried to limit the visibility of bullfighting by imposing age restrictions and even banning its broadcasting. In Catalonia, a popular region for corridas, a long controversial campaign for their banning was finally successful in 2010 and critics claim it reflected Catalan politics more than animal rights. Even within the Spanish Royal family views on the matter are conflicting: unlike his wife, King Juan Carlos is a big supporter of corridas.