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26 Sep 2011 06:30
It marks the end of more than 600 years of history. On Sunday evening, amid the cheers of fans and the bloody death throes of fighting bulls, Barcelona was hosting its las bullfight.
As dusk fell in the Catalan capital, sequin-clad local matador Serafín Marín was preparing to dispatch the last of six bulls on the sand of the packed La Monumental bullring—where tickets had reportedly swapped hands for up to €3 500 each.
With bullfighting banned in Catalonia as of next year—and with Sunday’s fight marking the end of the season in Barcelona—no Spanish fighting bull, or toro bravo as the breed is known, will be killed in the city in the name of sport or art for the foreseeable future.
Supporters denounced the ban as an infringement of civil liberties.
Opponents declared it an enlightened move away from mindless barbarity.
“We have won the war, but today we will lose a battle as six animals will die,” said a 32-year-old protester who gave only her first name, Montserrat.
“They are pigs,” said Antonio (70) an elegant white-suited fan, pointing to the small crowd of animal rights protesters gathered outside La Monumental.
Either way, it was a historic moment.
There was huge demand for tickets from those keen to witness the end, while fans were seen outside the ring clutching bullfighting memorabilia.
“I have been queueing here since Thursday and have slept outside three nights running,” said Jordi Piqué, who snapped up one of the few remaining tickets sold at the gate on Sunday morning.
Although bullfighting has been on the decline in Catalonia for decades, Barcelona once hosted some of Spain’s most important fights.
It was a sign of the dwindling local popularity of what Spaniards call their “national fiesta” that architect Richard Rogers had already turned the city’s other major bullring, Las Arenas, into a shopping mall.
Critics of the ban blamed the hand of Catalan nationalism. Deputies in the local Parliament, they said, had voted it through purely because bullfighting was emblematic of Spain and they wanted to differentiate Catalonia from the rest of the country.
“The Parliament banned bullfighting because it is a Spanish fiesta, not to protect animals,” Marín told El Mundo newspaper. As the bullfighters paraded around the ring on Sunday the crowd shouted: “Liberty! Liberty!”
But activists and many locals said the ban reflected the sensitivity of locals to the needless suffering of animals in the name of entertainment.
“We are glad that the torturing of bulls in Catalan bullrings is over,” said anti-bullfight protester Aïda Gascón.
The first recorded bullfight in Barcelona was in 1387. In 1835 an angry crowd of fans rioted, burning down local monasteries and convents.
Thousands of bulls have died on the sand of La Monumental, a neo-mudejar style building decorated with white and blue tiles, since it was built in 1915. Eight bullfighters have reportedly also died after being gored here.
Spanish kings, the fascist dictator General Francisco Franco and regional Catalan presidents like Lluís Companys are among those to have been guests of honour here. Among those offering their support to the matadors on Sunday was artist Miquel Barceló, whose paintings of bullfighting scenes sell for up to €4.6-million and who designed the poster for the city’s final fight.
José Tomás, a bullfighter loved by artists and leftwing intellectuals, was on the bill to fight two of the six bulls, along with Juan Mora and Marín.
Tomás lived up to his reputation as a hero to Barcelona bullfight fans on Sunday after killing his first bull—being awarded the gory trophy of the bull’s ears as cheering fans waved white handkerchiefs to express admiration.
A taxidermist has already been asked to preserve the head of the last bull to be killed. Other remains were set to be chopped up and sold in butcher’s shops—where the meat of fighting bulls, which live a free-range existence before they die, is prized by some clients.
La Monumental, which has also hosted concerts by The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, is expected to receive planning permission for a change of use.
Among the projects proposed for the site are an indoor market, a block of luxury apartments and a mosque financed by Dubai. - guardian.co.uk
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