Another immemorial custom, that is. Catalonia, that second-most unruly province of Spain, witnessed its last bullfight for the foreseeable future last night. The effort to end the corrida was part-animal rights treacle, part-regional anti-Castillian politics.
Hemingway said, and for once I agree with him, that it is impossible for a person to really “get” a bullfight unless he has seen one. Ahead of time, one might think they know how they will react, but it all goes out the window inside the arena. He saw the toughest men go queasy, and the most delicate ladies embrace it.
In short, it is one of those most Spanish of things that are being thrown into the gutter– down the memory hole. Just like the Catholic faith.
From the UK Telegraph:
The last Ole! Bullfighting comes to an end in Catalonia
Almost seven hundred years of Catalan bullfighting history ended on Sunday night with the final death blow dealt by its hometown hero.
by Fiona Govan
While Jose Tomas, Spain’s finest matador, was the undisputed star of the evening, the honour of killing the last bull on Catalan soil fell to torero Serafin Marin, a native of Barcelona.
When Marin delivered the estocada, a half tonne bull dropped to the sand, just as reflections of the sun faded in the matador’s suit of light.
On a day when bloodthirsty spectacle was staged for the last time, Spain’s leading exponent of the sport took a triumphant bow in his favourite arena.
The final Ole! at La Monumental arena in central Barcelona marked the end of an era and cast the uneasy relationship between the Catalans and Spain into thick swirl of emotion.
The 18,000 seats for the region’s last ever bullfight sold out within hours and tickets traded on the black market commanding more than ten times their face value. A few were touted on the internet for as much as 1,500 euros each.
Even the posters that advertised the event became an instant collector’s item.
The limited editions prints, commissioned especially from Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo, have been disappearing from hoardings across the Catalan capital.
Queues formed outside the distributers as fans clamoured to get their hands on the piece of history.
Tomas can reportedly command a fee of up to half a million euros for each appearance and attracts aficionados from the world over.
He refuses to allow his bullfights to be televised, adding to the mystique surrounding him, and last year almost died when he was gored by a bull in Aquascalientes, Mexico surviving only after a 17-pint blood transfusion.
But while his name on the billboard guarantees a sell out, such popularity is rare.
Audiences have been dwindling in Catalonia for decades and the Monumental bullring, the last of three in the city to stage bullfights, rarely managed to fill a third of its seats and has struggled to turn a profit.
The death knell came in July 2010 when Catalonia’s parliament voted to outlaw what many consider a barbaric practice, following a petition by animal rights’ group Prou! — Catalan for “Enough” – which collected 180,000 signatures.
The prohibition comes into force on January 1 next year but the end was marked with the close of the bullfighting season in Barcelona on Sunday.
The ban triggered a furore across Spain and a nationwide debate over the quintessentially Spanish tradition that has inspired artists and writers including Goya, Picasso and Hemingway.
While campaigners celebrated the ban as a victory for animal rights and hoped it would be a tide turner that would lead to the spectacle being abandoned across Spain, many dismissed it as a purely political move.
Critics claim local politicians had agreed the ban on an activity seen as the symbol of Castillian Spain as a way of proving their independence from Madrid and distinguishing the region from the rest of Spain.
Marin, 29, decried the ban.
“The parliament has prohibited bullfights because it is a “Spanish fiesta” — the ultimate symbol of Spanish nationalism,” he said an interview ahead of the bullfight. “The ban has nothing to do with animal welfare.” Indeed, many have questioned how Catalonia can ban “la corrida” while continuing to allow other bull related cruelties, such as the “correbous”, where a bull with flaming torches attached to its horns is chased through the streets.
“They are banning the national fiesta whilst still allowing the Catalan correbous to continue,” Tim Parfitt, British author of “A load of Bull” and a Barcelona resident told the Daily Telegraph. “It is hypocrisy.”
The owner of La Monumental is demanded millions in compensation over the ban and promoters and breeders from across Spain are planning a class action to sue the Catalan authorities over denying them a means to earn a living