Musings Abroad-My Life in Spain: Inside the Bullring

The bullring in Granada, Spain (Photo Credit: Anna Groeling).

Bullfighting is a controversial tradition. For some, it’s seen as a respected art form that’s integral to Spanish culture. Conservative newspapers such as La Razón even have a section dedicated to the practice, where bullfighting is covered under culture rather than under sports.

Bullfights have played a large part in Spain’s history, so when I learned that I could tour a bullring without seeing a fight, I decided to go. In Spanish, a bullring is known as the plaza de toros. The seats in the bullring vary by price, depending on if the seats are in the shade or in the sun. Its sand typically has a golden quality.

An altar is placed near where the torero would be operated on, so that the family can pray for his life while waiting (Photo Credit: Anna Groeling).

After seeing the bullring, the tour led us to where the bulls would normally be kept. We walked along narrow catwalks that separated the outdoor pins, then went through the tunnels the bulls take to get to the ring. The doors were thick and maneuvered by ropes that were attached to the roof, so that workers are able to lead the bull into the ring without having direct contact. It was a surreal experience, to say the least.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the tour was the hospital. This is where the torero, the bullfighter, would be performed on if injury occurred. Often times there are multiple bullfighters that compete in one game. Granada’s bullring has two operating rooms, one that’s more outdated than the other. There’s also a place for the torero’s family to pray and wait. The torero’s ability to face death is part of the attraction of the sport.

The operating rooms are located just outside of the bullring (Photo Credit: Anna Groeling).

I don’t like seeing animals or humans suffer, so visiting the bullring was a difficult decision. The tour, though shocking at times, brought the controversial issue to life and tied together what I have learned about bullfighting. Over the years bullfighting’s popularity has been on a sharp decline. As Spain approached its 2015 general elections, there were many animal rights protests that were widely covered by the media.

When I watched the news, there were protest signs saying “La tortura no es arte ni cultura” (Torture is neither art nor culture). So it didn’t come as any surprise to hear that the practice has been banned in areas of Spain. The Canary Islands was the first autonomous community to ban bullfighting. In January 2012, the tradition was also banned in Catalonia.

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