Cultural and Societal Aspects of Bullfighting

Much of Spain’s revenue comes from tourists who visit the country to experience many of the cultural activities and Fiestas that are hosted. Tourists consider bullfights virtually synonymous with Spain and flock to these events as a source of exotic entertainment. It has been noted in recent years that a natural decline in the attendance at bullfighting events is beginning to occur,  based on generational and ethical changes. The public varies enormously according to province, time of year, condition of the bulls, weather, presence or absence of food and alcohol, number of tourists etc., which in turn affects whether people opt to watch bullfights or not.

Cheering spectators at a bullfight in Valencia

One of the main reasons bullfighting has been such a popular event throughout Spanish history has a lot to do with the Toreros and the ‘character’ they play, more than simply the fight itself. Much like in today’s society, where superheroes with magic powers pose as children’s role models; historically, these Toreros served as role models and superheroes. One in particular was a man by the name of Ignacio Sanchez Mejias, one of the most talented and well-known Toreros in Spanish history.

Ignacio Sanchez Mejias

He was a symbol of both strength and courage, dedicating his entire life to training and competing in the arena. At the age of 43, in his comeback fight, Mejias was clearly unprepared for his opponent, a bull who was much greater in size than he was used to fighting. Mejias was pierced in the abdomen by the long, thin horn of his opponent, resulting in his untimely death two days later in the hospital.

After his death, Mejias’ popularity continued to mount, with numerous poems, stories and songs being written about him by famous admirers.

In comparison to the original origin of bullfighting, the traditional spectacle now focuses more on the entertainment and violent aspects of the event. Mediterranean folklore depicts the bull as symbol of power, fertility, and even godhood, but in no country other than Spain has the blood sacrifice of the bull within the ring. This means that the culture in Spain focuses more on the gruesome death of an animal without any other motivational factors, contrary to the religious aspects that were originally present when bullfighting first began.

While other countries around the world, like Cuba and the South Americas, have progressed away from violent events, and now focus more so on other  sports, like baseball and soccer, which are less archaic and more morally accepted in society, Spain is the only country that not progressed beyond that stage.

This addresses the issue that while countries around the world are beginning to reform their sports to make them more ethically proficient, Spain is in a bit of a stand-still, because much of their culture and economy relies on bullfighting and the tourism which coincides with the event.

As we can see from the graph above, international tourism in Spain has been continuing to progress; without the presence of Fiestas and bullfights, it is uncertain what the future outcome of the tourism economy in Spain may be.

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