French town bans bullfight with 10-year-old matador
Rising star 10-year-old Michelito was banned from participating in French bullfight, pending an investigation into the legality of his participation.4 August 2008
FONTVIEILLE - A row over a 10-year-old Franco-Mexican bullfighter's planned appearance saw a French village on Friday ban a competition gathering matadors from France, Spain and Latin America.
"They want to prevent him from living his passion, it's sad," said Michel Lagravere, father of Michelito, the boy who in recent months has become a rising star in Latin America's bullfighting circuits.
Guy Frustie, mayor of the southern French town of Fontvieille, said in a statement that regional authorities asked him to ban the event Michelito was due to take part in Saturday so as to "guarantee the security of the minor".
"All this shocks me," said Lagravere, a former matador who runs a bullfighting school in Mexico's Yucatan province.
He said Michelito, whose full name is Michel Lagravere Peniche, only participates in "becerradas," bullfights for beginners that use calves, without killing them, or brandishing the "banderilles" used by grown-up bullfighters.
"He plays only with calves adapted to his size, like 300 other children his age who belong to bullfighting schools in France," said the boy's father, who admitted that the bullfights his son takes part in at home involve trying to kill the animal.
Michelito has killed 60 bulls since he was six-years-old, according to the Alliance Anticorrida animal rights groups, and has been injured on several occasions.
His family vehemently denied his ever being injured, although not the amount of bulls he has killed.
"You only have to look at his body to see that he has not been injured,” said his grandfather, Louis Lagravere.
Prosecutors in nearby Tarascon opened an enquiry into the legality of Michelito's participation when they received a complaint from the Alliance Anticorrida, which said the event would breach labour laws limiting the work of minors.
However, Fontvieille's mayor said the decision had nothing to do with ethical concerns or any labour laws.
"It is not about being for or against bullfighting," said Frustie.
Michelito's family firmly deny he is paid by the sport.
"There is no financial gain. His trip to France was paid with help from the Yucatan (province)," said Lagravere.
Two other minors, under 16 years of age, were also due to participate in Saturday's competition, intended to gather young matadors from bullfighting schools in France, Spain and Latin America.
For Claire Starozinski, founder of the Alliance Anticorrida, bullfighting "is a dangerous game" and the "behaviour of these parents is abusive and disgraceful, even if it does not kill".
Michelito is scheduled to participate in similar events in other towns across southern France in the coming weeks.
[AFP / Expatica]