Sunday, January 29, 2017

Colombians against bullfighting

Bullfighting is a traditional Spanish spectacle in which bulls are taunted and wounded by a “torero” as an act of courage and manhood. This popular event is held several times a year where thousands of bulls are killed for what some call “entertainment”. In a traditional bullfight, the “torero” carries a cape with which he performs a series of movements in order to provoke the bull. When the bull approaches, the torero leans over its horns to place a stick into the bull's shoulders. The event usually wraps up with the killing of the bull, which for sure goes onto a better life. 

This tradition represents the national identity of the Spain, but is also deeply tied with the culture of other Spanish-speaking countries like Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela and as much as I hate to say this, my home country Colombia. Today, I will focus on Colombia’s bullfights, not specifically on their cultural value but on the controversy that this tradition has generated among Colombians in the last few days. Bullfights were banned in Colombia since 2012 until the constitutional court decided to reverse the ban this year in defense of "Colombia’s cultural heritage". After four years, Colombia’s capital city and my hometown, Bogotá, witnessed the first bullfight of the year. 

The protesters, who were mainly from the capital claimed that this was a mindless decision by part of the government and that any cultural tradition should prevail over the life of an animal. Groups of students and animal rights activists took to the streets of Bogotá this past Sunday to protest against the mistreatment of these animals.  However, there are still a big number of regions that remained faithful to this tradition.  

You probably haven’t heard of this march because it did not draw the attention of social media and global newspapers as the Women’s March on Washington did. Both happened on the same weekend, but usually U.S news has more weight than Colombian news, and perhaps protesters rejecting the bullfights returning to Colombia’s capital did not appear to be like the most important event to the international news. However, I think it’s worth questioning why would someone advocate the rights of a bull considering that it is quite evident why would someone support women’s rights with the arrival of Trump’s administration. 

We don’t need to understand so much of the background to know that the protesters were encouraged by the fact that bullfights are perceived as a bloody and degrading act towards these animals.  However, as we learned in class not everything is reduced to facts and most things don’t speak by themselves, they require interpretation. The debate relies in two positions: the people who disagree, who are in great part from Bogotá and the people who agree with this new law, who generally speaking live in the regions where all the festivals, fairs and most cultural traditions are held. As rhetorical processes demand interpretation, they also demand to be directed to the right audience. In this sense, bullfights are not only a matter of morality but also a matter of geography. The reason why the people from Bogotá reject bullfights and certainly are encouraged to be interactive is because none of the protesters feel culturally identified with a man moving a cape towards a bull and all of what they see is a man killing an animal. The students and activists felt persuaded to organize a movement because they found in each other a feeling of empathy based on common ideas, experiences and realities. 

According to the Colombian newspaper, El Tiempo, hundreds of activists dressed in black shouted “murderers” as they marched across the Santamaria Bullring. They didn't mince their words because none of these traditions are attached to the hearts of the people from Bogotá which, as many other capitals of the world, is the center of industry, commerce, education and modernization, but not exactly the place where all the historical and cultural traditions live. As a person who lived in Bogotá 18 years it wouldn’t be hard for me to shout the same thing if I were part of the protest, but probably a person who lives from the tourism, or a farmer from a rural area wouldn’t think the same as the people from the capital. This is a generalized thought but the point is that the way people think has a reason and social change is only achieved when it's aimed to affect the right audience.

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