Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bullfighting – If You’re Not Spanish, You Can’t Understand

There’s a small brouhaha going on over at Notes From Spain. Ben can always get the natives riled up over a nice discussion about the evils of bullfighting - and related pastimes. There were many comments from non-Spanish newcomers denouncing the practice, and a mix from Spanish people alternately denouncing and defending la corrida de toros. As usual, the Spaniards doing the defending were getting pretty offended and I think this time I am on their side.

I was wondering if it is even possible for non-Spanish people to really understand the fiesta nacional. I mean, we probably just don’t get it and never will get it and should just stay out of it. I for one like that Spain has the bullfight. It sounds terrible, but I am willing to sacrifice a few bulls to keep Spain “Spain”. We would not be fascinated with the place if it were not for all this interesting stuff going on. I have only been to two bullfights in my life and they were great, exotic and Spanish. However, I did not catch the bug, but I don’t want them to end either. I like the idea of the bullfight. Are they brutal? Hell yes! That’s life! I think the Spanish people should not try to “defend” bullfights anymore. They should just say, “ Yeahh, they’re nasty, and beautiful, a lot of fun, all ours, and what a show!”

Now here’s where I’m going to lose you if I have not lost you already, I draw a very tenuous parallel between a common Yanqui custom that I do not believe the world can ever fully understand – gun ownership. Yeah, some Americans like guns, they like to hunt, they use them as tools, they like to hone their skills, they think of them as fine machinery, they can be a hobby and a pastime, they are a part of some people’s lives, they are a responsibility. Most of the world dismisses the gun-toting Yanquis as barbarians, or red-necked, violent simpletons (and some are I’m sure). And of course many Americans also think this same way. Sound familiar? There are more and more Spanish people who do not want the Bullfight to continue.

So, just as I wish the rest of the world would at least consider the unique cultural and historic aspects of the gun in America and not judge too harshly, I’ve decided that we non-Spanish types need to keep our noses out of the fiesta nacional and let the Spanish decide when it dies. Likewise, the Americans will decide when to ban the guns. Both are coming of course.

Update: Good Bullfight Article.


Roberto said...

Well Carl, I don't like bullfighting but, to be honest, I don't care much about it either. I mean, you won't see me at a bullfight and you won't see me at an anti-bullfighting demonstratation. Basically, bullfighting bores me. I guess that makes me another cruel and blood-thirsty Spaniard. Whatever.

By the way, whoever translated "corrida de toros" into bullfight did a very bad job. It's not a fight, come on!. I mean, there's no competition, the bull's tail always ends up being cooked in some restaurant close to Las Ventas. It's delicious.

Regarding guns in America, well, yes, it's difficult to understand for me, what can I say. I don't think it's a good idea to let people go around carrying guns, but you're right, it's none of my bussiness, I'm not American.

Carl said...

Believe me I'm no fan either, but for some crazy reason I think it's cool that there is bullfighting in Spain.

The English name for corrida de toros is not great, you're right. But I also have trouble with the Spanish name. Isn't "corrida de toros" more like "running the bulls?" Not very descriptive.

And, I realize that linking Americans and their guns with Spaniards and their bulls - is a stretch. But they are two issues that the rest of the world sees both of us as pariahs.

Jeff said...

Definitely the best perspective I have read on this subject. Great job!

The parallel you draw between gun ownership in the U.S. and bullfighting in Spain may be a tiny stretch, but [as an American myself] I can definitely see where you are coming from. I would have to agree that bullfights are something that make Spain "Spain." I'm just not sure what I would choose to exemplify/epitomize an equivalent to bullfighting in America, but gun ownership in America is certainly not as rampant as you think. Although if we're speaking in terms of "red-neck-ness" or "barbarity," then maybe you are on the right track.

Anyway, these issues are ultimately things that will not find a common ground solution for a long time, simply because a consensus could never be reached on whether to abolish bullfighting in Spain or to promote universal gun control in America.

For the meantime, I'm certainly happy with going to a bullfight every time I go to a different city in Spain. I like going with friends on a sunny afternoon, just enjoying the excitement of the crowd around me. For me, though, it's no more appealing than watching some other sporting event for 3 hours (like baseball, basketball, or American football)...rather, it's something unique to the Spanish culture, and for that reason I hope the tradition continues!

Bilingual Blogger said...

NYTimes piece that came out this weekend about bullfighting.

Carl said...

Thanks Bilingual,

Good article I learned (or remembered some things).

Corrida de toros - the afternoons card of six bulls.

That the EU did try to ban bullfighting as I was only guessing they would someday when I was "predicting" things in Spain's future.

Good quote:

Then Lyon said: “Beware of drawing too many conclusions about Spain from its bullfights, because most Spaniards aren’t interested in toreo and many are against it — that is, until somebody from the outside tries to prohibit it.”

Roberto said...

Carl, "Correr A alguien" means something like "to chase, to chase around somebody". So bullfighting should perhaps be bullchasing, I think.

Roberto said...

And please, be very careful when using the word "corrida", I'm sure you already know it has other interesting meanings here in Spain...

Carl said...

I guess I better always say "corrida de toros" to be absolutely sure.

leftbanker said...

I can completely understand a person's aversion to the corrida but you need to put it into perspective. Their are many greater ills in the world than what goes on in the ruedo. I have been a few times and I really don't know how I feel about the whole thing (except that it's a great place to smoke a big, fat puro!). I am also not a vegetarian and I think the bull dies a more valiant death in the ruedo than some cow on the floor of a meat packing plant. Up until then the bull has a pretty nice life if you have ever seen where they are raised. Shit, I wouldn't mind that life.

The last time I went to a corrida was during Fallas. There was some euro-trash teenage girl going on and on about how terrible and cruel it was (in some sort of English, unfortunately for me). I finally turned around and told her to shut the fuck up or leave. That pretty much sums up my feelings on the whole issue.

Carl said...

I agree with you.

Anthony said...

I don't think you have to be Spanish to be able to justify your dislike of Bullfighting or like of it for that matter. Being Spanish doesn't mean that you like bull fighting automaticly. Lots of Spaniard don't like it.

I am for gun control in the USA and am from Oklahoma. Again opinions vary. I don't have to be from the UK to know that I don't like fox hunts nor do I have to be from France to not approve of eating foie gras or from Japan to be against whale hunting etc.
My point is that, I think it's ok to have an opinion and even voice it about anything even if it about another countries customs.

I don't like bullfighting; however, there is no accounting for taste. So if seeing a bull being tortured then killed is your thing. Knock youself out

Anthony said...

Check out this artical by Pilar Rahola about Bullfighting that she just wrote.

Midnight Golfer said...

I am glad I read your post about this. I think it was at least insightful, if not ingenious, to make the comparison of bulls to guns.
It have actually helped me to refine my beliefs on the matter.
I now believe that it is not the government's place to determine if bullfighting is legal. I believe that humane-minded people must continue to share their opinions about bullfighting. But, as with guns, there doesn't need to be any Big Brother coming in and changing the laws.

Carl said...

Thanks Midnight.

Anonymous said...


I realize that I'm 5 years late to this discussion, but...

I think your parallel is flawed. BTW, I'm an American liberal born and raised in Los Angeles. For one thing, it's not like all Americans are into owning guns. Other than the thugs and the cops, gun ownership is more a Southern and rural thing more than anything. Most of us have no desire to own guns or display rifles on the rear windows of pickup trucks. That's a small part of America, whereas bullfighting is a MAJOR symbol of Spanish culture.

Also, let's not forget that bullfighting is not exclusive to Spain either. It has a long tradition in France, Portugal, and Mexico, among other countries.

John Fry said...


1) Boxing is WRONG! 2 men beating each other senseless in a boxing ring is the Anglo whitey bread and butter!

2) Fishing is WRONG! A fish getting caught in the throat by a barbed hook is deadly to the fish. It is the Anglo whitey bread and butter of Americana!

3) UFC fighting in Octagon is WRONG!!!! 2 men beating and kicking the snot out of each other is cruel and dangerously deadly! Again, U.S. Anglo-whitey bread and butter!

4) The U.S.A. should and MUST STOP invading and subverting sovereign countries at a whim!

PLEASE STOP IN THE ANGLOSPHERE THESE 3 DEADLY ACTIVITIES! Ohhh wait a minute, let's point the finger at countries like Spain that have been culturally participating in bullfights since BEFORE the U.S.A. ever existed!

In fact, it is thanks to the HELP of Spain that the U.S. was able to become independent from England! And NOT a single mention of that in U.S. history books!