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The International Writers Magazine: La Corrida

The Bull and Penelope Cruz
E S Morford

s the difference maturity or is it simply the times? Why does the once exciting and romantic now seem cruel and juvenile? Of course, bullfighting was always thought cruel by those who understood (and often because of the cruelty, those not caring to understand); barbed sticks, spears and swords piercing an exhausted animal until blood pumps down its sides and twenty foot red geysers gush out its mouth. Not all that long ago we yelled ¨Ole! ¨ as but another dumb ox sank to the ground, horns still attempting to get at the tormenter, a red cloth.

Man triumphing over beast, courage through artistry, the ¨moment of truth¨, and all the romanticism attributed bullfighting by Ernest Hemingway, Kenneth Tynan, Barnaby Conrad, and the rest of the Fiesta Brava literary crowd, we thought compensated for the cruelty. ¨Of course, it’s cruel, ¨ we would growl, ¨but where else can you view ritualized death, or realize the vast difference between man and beast? At least a fighting bull has a chance to do damage and not stand helpless as a sledgehammer smashes into its brain. And remember, the bullfight is not a sport but a tragedy.¨
Then we’d smile with that superiority of the aficionado, lean back, and from a leather bag squeeze a stream of red wine into our mouths.  

Although still a fixed tradition, the popularity of bullfighting in Hispanic countries has decreased over the years. My concern here, however, is with the non-Spanish Speaking world. Other than the ¨Running of The Bulls¨ in Pamplona each July (which has as much to do with an interest in bullfighting as ¨Spring Break¨ has with an interest in Easter), we are no longer intrigued by what Hemingway called ¨Death in the Afternoon.¨ Why?

Constant exposure to violence on the nightly news, not to mention in movies and television dramas, is one reason. The public wants something not so close to reality. What had been a philosophical exercise yesterday appears banal, and above all, unnecessary, today. For too long we’ve seen too much death; all those body bags and coffins draped in American flags. Ritualized death? Hoisted placards protesting capital punishment saturate our TV screens, as do death penalty advocates that describe in detail heinous murders often committed by a serial killer. Photographs of the crime scene, and the last grizzly moments inside the death chamber, bombard us. We don’t need spectacles that celebrate death, particularly if they involve a stupid animal that hasn’t the slightest idea why it’s being tortured. The whole thing is meaningless and extraneous. As Epicurus said: ¨Where death is, we are not. Where we are, death is not.¨
But then Epicurus didn’t watch TV.
Bullfighting is now out of fashion in the non-Hispanic world. The trend, however, could swing back in its favor. Ironically enough, the same power that inadvertently damaged bullfighting’s appeal, the media, may overtly lead to a renaissance. ¨Manolete¨, a soon to be released movie co-starring heart-throb Penelope Cruz, depicts the last day in the life of the famed Spanish matador (matador means ¨killer of bulls¨), Manuel Rodriguez Sanchez, known as ¨Manolete.¨ If highly publicized this film might trigger a resurgent interest in La Corrida. After all, matadors were once a staple of the Hollywood and television diet. Movies such as ¨Blood and Sand¨, and Rod Serling´s l957 televised drama ¨The Death of Manolete¨, served to popularize the ¨tragedy.¨ And let us not forget a new generation is being targeted, and in non-Hispanic countries usually the young  are those enamored by bullfighting.
So the world may return to those symbols of death, matador and bull; flag draped coffins, serial killers, and Epicurus be damned. 

© es morford October 2006

see these pictures of running bulls in the Basque country

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