Bullfighting, symbol of Spanish culture
The bullfight is one of Spain´s most traditional fiestas. It is considered an art form, part of Spain´s history and culture. In Spain bullfighters are as famous as film stars. In a typical bullfight six bulls will be killed by three matadors and each encounter lasts about 15 minutes culminating in the killing of the bull. The bulls, through instinct and selective breeding will charge at anything that moves and way on average 460kg.
Supporters of bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition and a fully developed art form on par with painting, dancing and music, whilst critics hold that it is a blood sport perpetrated as a cowardly act resulting in the suffering of bulls and horses. There are many historic fighting venues in Spain but also in France and Hispanic America. The largest venue is the Plaza México in central Mexico City, which seats 48,000 people, and the oldest is the La Maestranza in Seville, which was first used for bullfighting in 1765.
Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice. The first recorded Bull fight may be the Epic of Gilgamesh which describes a scene in which Gilgamesh and Enkidu fought and killed the Bull of Heaven. The killing of the sacred bull is the essential central iconic act of Mithras, which was commemorated in the mithraeum wherever Roman soldiers were stationed. The oldest representation of what seems to be a man facing a bull is on the Celtiberian tombstone from Clunia and the cave painting “El toro de hachos“, both found in Spain.
Many supporters of bullfighting regard it as a deeply ingrained, integral part of their national cultures. The aesthetic of bullfighting is based on the interaction of the man and the bull. Rather than a competitive sport, the bullfight is more of a ritual, which is judged by bullfighting fans, based on artistic impression and command. Ernest Hemingway said in the 1932: “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honour.” Bullfighting is seen as a symbol of Spanish culture.
The bullfight is a demonstration of style, technique and courage by its participants and like a show of cruelty and cowardice by its critics. Whilst there is usually no doubt about the outcome, the bull is not viewed by bullfighting supporters as a sacrificial victim, it is instead seen by the people like a worthy adversary, deserving of respect in its own right. Those who oppose bullfighting maintain that the practice is merely a cowardly, sadistic tradition of slowly torturing, humiliating and finally murdering a terrified, dying bull who vomits blood, bellows in agony, and desperately seeks his escape amid pomp and pageantry of unashamed people who applaud when he finally collapses and then is killed. Supporters of bullfights, called “aficionados“, claim they respect the bulls and that bullfighting is a grand tradition, a form of art important to their culture.