Catalan bullfight ban raises debate in Latin America

28th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Bullfighting supporters in Latin America slammed Wednesday's decision by Catalonia to ban the tradition, while animal rights groups hoped it would boost their bids to stop it, too.

By voting to ban bullfighting from January 1, 2012, Catalonia became the first region in mainland Spain to outlaw the centuries-old tradition.

Parts of Latin America do not maintain the tradition either.

But across the region, crowds still attend bullfights, which date back to Spanish colonization, from Mexico which has the world's largest bullring, to Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

Spanish, French and Portuguese bullfighters also travel to the region for bullfights in winter.

The Catalan parliament vote against bullfighting was "more anti-Spanish than anti-bullfight," said Michel Lagravere, the father of Franco-Mexican child bullfighting star Michelito.

"It's really sad, it's unthinkable to make bans which are worthy of the (Spanish) Inquisition, especially since it's a political, anti-Spanish decision," said the former French bullfighter who lives in southeast Mexico.

Peruvian bullfighting analyst and commentator Bartolome Puigros agreed with Spanish conservatives who said the vote was about asserting Catalonia's regional identity for nationalist reasons.

"Those who banned it are complete idiots. What's happening is that there are some separatists in Catalonia," Puigros told AFP.

In Colombia, bullfighting writer Victor Diusaba said it was a political decision, but he noted that it took place in a region where bullfighting was not particularly popular.

"Support for bullfighting is still healthy in the rest of Spain," Diusaba said.

But anti-bullfighting activism is on the rise, even in Mexico where the capital's La Monumental bullring can host more than double that of Las Ventas in Madrid.

An attempt to introduce bullfights in Uruguay, for example, saw only eight fights between 1910 and 1912, until former president Jose Batlle y Ordonez, the grandson of Catalan immigrants, banned them.

Mexican animal rights defenders welcomed Wednesday's decision as a "world success," said Gustavo Larios, president of the Mexican anti-bullfight organization.

"It's the result of international work which gives us a lot of hope," Larios said.

The Catalan move also boosted the anti-bullfighting campaign in Colombia, where the constitutional court is next week due to take a stand on bullfighting.

"If Spain can (ban it), Colombia can too. No more cruelty in that 'sport' from the era of barbarians," wrote a reader of Colombian daily El Tiempo.

But 92-year-old Mexican bullfighting journalist Ernesto Navarrete Salazar, also known as Don Neto, said it would carry on.

"It's impossible that bullfighting, which began in Crete and has resonated for centuries until today, will disappear," Salazar told AFP.

© 2010 AFP

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