Wednesday, April 13, 2016

As Baja resumes bullfighting, Mexicans debate: Is it an art form or a cruel, outdated ritual?

Just before 4 p.m. Sunday, with sunshine filling the stadium and a gentle breeze wafting off the Pacific Ocean just a few hundred yards away, the chant begins. “To-ro! To-ro! To-ro!” They are calling for the bull. It has been months since the last bullfight, which many believe should have been the last bullfight ever. Just three days before, Baja California's congress — its state legislature — postponed a vote that would have banned bullfighting in the Mexican state and forced the cancellation of this spectacle. The crowd is restless. Ever greater numbers of Mexicans see this as a cruel and outdated ritual. Polls show that roughly 80% of Baja Californians oppose it. But as the bullfighting season opened on schedule Sunday, the dwindling ranks of traditionalists could savor at least a temporary victory and another day of what, they insist, is an art form. Trumpets sound from a band on the third level of the stadium. The crowd erupts. From a tunnel walk four young men in glittering, neon-colored skintight outfits. The crowd continues to cheer warily — the talent of these younger men can vary, though they are soon successfully goading a young bull named Galan into chasing them. Part rodeo, part derby and part tailgate, the Tijuana bullfights are an amalgam of Mexican society in the borderlands. Ranchers in wide-brimmed hats coax their wives in jean jackets through the busy gates outside the stadium, divided between Sombra (shade) and Sol (seats in the sun). Inside, young men in flannel shirts cluster next to society women in gowns and extravagant hats or with flowers in their hair. There are very few children, despite free admission to those younger than 12. A sign in front of the stadium reads “Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza” in giant red-and-white letters. Pictured is a man on horseback, with a navy coat and silver trim. He is astride a horse and he is considered the best in the world at what he does — namely, killing bulls while astride a horse, forcing him to control his horse and the bull at the same time...more

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