The bullfighting festival is going through an unprecedented crisis derived from three factors: the pandemic, its internal ills and the continuous attacks by animal currents. But the future hints at a thread of hope based on a return to emotion, reducing costs and a communication plan aimed, fundamentally, at attracting the youngest.
This could be a close conclusion to the urgent reflections of five renowned fans – one woman and four men, two of them French ‘militants’ – who have sat around a virtual table to talk about the present and the future of the 21st century bullfighting due to the damage caused by the covid-19.
Fátima Halcón, president of the Foundation for Bullfighting Studies and full professor of Art History at the University of Seville, is the only one who quotes the word ‘pessimism’ when speaking of the party.
François Zumbiehl, professor of Classical Languages and doctor of Cultural Anthropology, categorically begins the conversation: “It is an almost unsustainable spectacle in its current economy”.
Francis Wolf, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, affirms that the current paralysis is “an economic catastrophe for the breeding of the brave bull and the future of young bullfighters.”
Pessimism and hope coexist with an inevitable reconversion
Jesús Hijosa, mayor of Villaseca de la Sagra, confirms that it is “a world crisis that affects all economic sectors”.
And José Luis García-Palacios, president of the Caja Rural de Sur, assures that reality “is complex, very complex”, but he dares to speak of optimism.
All five were asked for a diagnosis on the present and an imaginative advance on the future. This is the summary of her analyzes.
The representative of the Andalusian financial institution, one of the few companies that openly bets on the party, describes the institutional management of the bullfighting sector as ‘curious and peculiar’. “I have never found traces of cohesion and consensus among the members of this extraordinary world,” he says. “Bullfighters, elements as viral as they are invested with a somewhat anachronistic mythical character, have lacked empathy with the one who supports them: the fans.” And he continues: “In my modest opinion, livestock organizations have been more a club or administrative manager than organizations that demand them, and the superficial / aesthetic has always prevailed over the efficient or professional. And the hobby was never properly ordered ”. In summary, “it is not an exaggeration to say that the current situation is exclusively the responsibility of those who make up the sector, nothing more.”
For his part, François Zumbiehl, one of the finest bullfighting analysts today, considers that the sector “is narrowed down in its organization and development, with little chance for new talents to emerge. It is also out of date with respect to the feeling of a good part of society, ignored, if not criticized, by the vast majority of the media, and, unfortunately, a comfortable target for controversies and stereotypes of political struggles ” .
His compatriot Francis Wolf, a well-known French intellectual, committed to the bullfighting festival, comments that “this disaster occurred at the peak of two crises: the first, systemic, as is the inevitable spread of animalistic ideology; and another, the growing politicization of the party in Spain, which places the fans on one side of the political table, which contributes to keeping them away from the most progressive part of urban youth ”. Despite this, he continues, “there is no artistic crisis of bullfighting; Last year I celebrated my fifty years as an amateur and lived the brightest and most interesting season of my life. ”
One of the most active promoters of bullfighting today, Jesús Hijosa, mayor of Villaseca de la Sagra, is very clear: “The problem,” he says, “is that the weakness of so many years of neglect and the lack of external financing from the spectacle have made the consequences in the sector more serious. The covid-19 has put on the table the weakness of a world in which little work has been done ”.
Fátima Halcón, an enthusiastic fan and visible head of the Foundation for Bullfighting Studies, one of the most outstanding cultural institutions, cannot avoid a rictus of discouragement.
“I am pessimistic about the current situation of the bullfight,” he says bluntly. “Contemporary society rejects any type of demonstration that is bloody with animals, and is not prepared to understand the sacrifice of a bull in the plaza. Unfortunately, that idea has caught on among the political class, which views this type of party with suspicion and refuses to grant aid. The direct consequence is the elimination of bullfights at popular parties, the absence of information in the media and the public manifestation of this rejection. ”
Put the cards of the present on the table, opens the debate on what is looming on the horizon. Fátima Halcón calls it “complicated”, and explains it this way: “The youth is being educated in the rejection of the party. Consequently, fans should campaign for the party without any kind of complex. Politicians of any kind must be explained the importance, roots and tradition of the party within the Mediterranean culture. It would be interesting if businessmen, ranchers and bullfighters adjusted the prices so that the youth could attend the bullfights, and, of course, that the bullfight had a presence in the media (especially on television) ”.
The pandemic has discovered the weaknesses of modern bullfighting
Francis Wolf is convinced that “the image of the bull and the fan must be changed.” “You have to put emotion in the foreground,” he adds, “in
the presentation of the bulls and in the validity of three thirds: an emotion made of admiration, fear and respect in the face of wild nature ”. He also believes that fans “must assume a modern, urban, progressive and, above all, ecological image. Nothing is more opposed to animalistic ideology than ecological ideology. ”
Jesús Hijosa is committed to “restructuring the party completely and adapting it to current times”. He clarifies that it does not refer to celebrating celebrations without death or eliminating the third of rods. “I am talking about suspending a system of contributions and financing that are more typical of another time and starting from scratch, adapting costs to the reality of the box office.” “This is the only way to lower the price of tickets and invest in the international projection of bullfighting.”
François Zumbiehl agrees with this opinion, and contributes two new concepts: transmission and evolution, “which are the two requirements stipulated by the UNESCO convention to ensure the survival of an intangible cultural heritage”. “The first one – a great communication campaign – would be aimed at young people and public opinion to explain the values of bullfighting, its ecological wealth and the well-being that brave animals bring to the conditions of their breeding in the pasture.” “Evolution,” he concludes, “would consist of streamlining the show, eliminating downtime, and making it less predictable.”
“I strive every day in an exercise in optimism,” says José Luis García-Palacios. In his opinion, the future must be worked on, “and I think it is being done with high marks,” he adds.
“Never in the history of bullfighting have we had a Foundation (del Toro de Lidia) with irrefutable scientific and environmental reasons; We have never been able to confirm the social and economic importance of the sector as now. However, it does not seem that amateurs are willing to fix our positions with the sector; even those who could be “influencers“Clothes are tempted before the violent harassment of populists and anti-bullfighting animal extremists.” “These are times of bravery, of union and resistance, in which respect, courage and intelligence are our best arguments,” he concludes.