Cultural and economic aspects
While searching for an appropriate topic for my essay, I tried to focuson subjects that included two main characteristics. On the one hand,I was looking for a topic that has a strong relationship to the region of Andalusia in Spain as I would like to spend my semester abroad in Seville. On the other hand, the topic should be subject to currentconversations and discussions. There was one thing that came across every time I read a book about Spain: Bullfighting ( La corrida de toros or toreo*).
Why is bullfighting an essential part of so many important celebrations, especially in Andalusia? Why do so many Spaniards pay such a considerable attention to the drama of killing a bull? These were some of the questions coming to my mind when reading about the corrida , which is regarded as a significant part of Spanish culture.
With this essay I want to have a look at the historical backgrounds of bullfighting first, then contrast the cultural and economic importance for the enthusiastic ( Aficionados) on the one hand and the criticism of the enemies on the other hand and finish with a conclusion trying to dare a look into the future.
* For your information: As there are lots of Spanish expressions, I decided to write themin italictype.
“One cannot write the history of Spain from 1650 to our own time without keeping the bullfight clearly in mind”
José Ortegas y Gasset, Spanish philosopher (1948)
(Lewine, 2005, p. 56)
Not only the popular philosopher José Ortegas y Gasset but also many others consider bullfighting as symbolic for Spain’s nature today and in the past. To understand why bullfighting has established its place in Spain’s national identity it is inevitable to have a brief look into history.There are several different hypotheses of the origin of bullfighting which cannot be proven definitely. Writers debated a lot whether the tradition of the corrida has its roots in the Middle Ages as a form of Roman entertainment, evolved from the sacrifice of animals in religious festivities or was an indigenous product which was created by the Moors (cp. Shubert, 2001, p. 6).In fact, fighting bulls was a popular activity in the Middle Agesand was only reserved for the elite. Mounted nobles fought with long lances on the occasion of marriages or sanctificationsfor reasons of honor and to demonstrate their strength. Long ago the bull had been regarded as an ancient symbol for power and fertility.The first time bullfights like that were mentioned in literature was in the famous Spanish “Poem of the Cid”in which the protagonist fights a bull at the marriage of the king’s daughter around 1040. The corrida, as it presents itself today,can be traced back to the early 18th century when the French Bourbon dynasty arrived in Spain. In the course of the first decades the nobility abandoned the thrill in the arena for the pleasures of the royalcourt and as a result, bullfighting was left to the plebeians who quickly took up this tradition. The squire, on foot, was then what today is called the matador and the knight on the back of a horse, the present picador ,turned into his servant.By the first half of the 18th century this new form of bullfighting became extremely popular and produced its first professional of historical significance: Francisco Romero, a shoemaker born in Ronda in the South of Spain. He was the first one to use a muleta , a small cape and a sword to kill the bull and is therefore mostly cited as a founder figure of the modern corrida . Consequently, dedicatedbullrings and later arenas were built, special fighting bulls were bred and the matadors were soon admired as legends: “The bullfight had arrived as a commercialized spectator spectacle” (Shubert, 2001, p. 9). Still today the is practiced not only in Spain, but also in Portugal, Southern France as well as in former Spanish colonies in Latin America.
Having the historical background in mind might help to comprehend the cultural importance of bullfighting I will try to examine in the following chapter.