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Saturday, July 26, 2008

La Corrida de Toros

Among the people I talk to here, I've met very few Spanish who claim to be aficionados (followers or fans) of the corrida. To say that it isn't popular among the young people of Spain is a huge understatement. Most young people here seem to be, for the most part, against the corrida, although most won't go so far as to actively protest against it. I did see about 30 people in front of the plaza de toros before a corrida the other night. If people here want to do away with the corrida, they'll have to do it without any help from me.

I live only about three blocks from Valencia's plaza de toros, a wonderful neoclassical structure built between 1850 and 1860 and designed by Sebastian Monleon based on the Roman amphitheater of Flavio Marcel. It is every bit as interesting on the inside as on the outside, and the outside (as you can see from the pictures on the link) is spectacular. I have been to five corrida de toros (bullfight is the atrocious translation which I won't use here) since I moved here last year. I have also seen a few dozen others on television, back when they were broadcast on regular TV. Now the corrida is only carried on the pay channels. I have also witnessed a few bull festivals in local villages in the community of Valencia.

I hadn't really made up my mind on the event until I went this past week and witnessed one of the more thrilling displays you'll ever see. It wasn't just what was going on in the ring that impressed me, but everything going on inside the plaza de toros. Let's just say that it was one of those nights when everything went perfectly. I love to smoke a big, fat cigar and walk all around the structure, from top to bottom. I love the view of the city from the outer galleries. I like to watch as the bulls are removed from the ring and taken directly to the butchers. It's funny to watch as very young kids—boys and girls—watch in complete fascination as the bulls are cut up. “Look, Alejandra, that's where meat comes from!” their parent tell them.

I love how they will let you bring in whatever you want. None of this, “No outside food” bullshit at the corrida. People bring in coolers of beer, sandwiches, wine bags, and bottles of champagne to celebrate the evening.

Some people in Spain say that the days of the corrida are numbered, that it will slide into the past. When and if that happens Spain will become a bit more like every other country in the world and a little less idiosyncratic. I wouldn't like to see that happen. I never try to defend the corrida when I discuss it with Spanish people, and I feel as an outsider I shouldn't criticize it either (not that I would). I just think that it is something that Spaniards will work out for themselves. I will enjoy the corrida while it lasts.

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