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Thursday, March 30, 2023

New calls persist demanding an end to bullfighting in Yucatán

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
A young woman stands in front of Mérida’s bullfighting ring to protest the increasingly divisive spectacle. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Well over a hundred protestors recently lined the streets surrounding Mérida’s bullfighting ring, demanding an end to the barbaric blood sport. Chants ranging from “torture is not culture” to “murder in plain sight” could be heard from blocks away as they attempted to dissuade folks from entering the ring.

Protesters boo bullfighters as they enter the ring, greatly contrasting with the admiring clamor they received from the fans inside. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Melchor, one of the bullfighters, defensively snapped back: “I am doing what I love, what my father did and my grandfather before me. You eat meat, right? What is the difference?”

The sight of the sold-out bullfighting stadium proves that there is still an appetite for the tradition in Yucatán. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The protestors at the bullfighting ring belonged to several animal-welfare organizations and united in their desire to end bullfighting in Yucatán. Bullfights are already outlawed in countries that include Argentina, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, Italy, and the United Kingdom. In the United States, only “bloodless” bullfighting — where the bull gets away alive — is allowed.

While the protestors were encouraged by many drivers passing by, others hurled insults at them, telling them to “mind your own business” and to “not get in the way of tradition.” Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But it would seem attitudes in Mexico, and in Yucatán more specifically, are beginning to shift. In a recent poll by Reforma, 62% of Mexicans said that they would like to see an end to the practice, a 3% jump since the poll was last conducted in 2018.

Protestors were overseen by municipal police, who allowed them to be directly in front of the ticket booth, but not near the ring’s access points. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

“There is no room for this kind of cruelty in our society,” said Noemi, a protestor from the local NGO, Protección Animal. Several protestors also took the opportunity to make their voices heard regarding other animal rights issues, including the continued use of horse-drawn carriages.

A man holds a sign reading, in English, “what if it were the other way around?” Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But despite the protests, the attendees making their way into the bullfight seemed overjoyed, with phrases like “its so good to be back” being heard again and again.

Mérida’s bullfighting ring was built in 1929 and is a recreation of a famous arena in Granada, Spain. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The electric atmosphere was undeniable, despite both the protests outside and the macabre tradition inside.

Vendors selling beer and fried snacks made their way through the crowd, just like at any other spectator event. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Another off aspect of the spectacle was the presence of children both outside protesting and inside the bullfighting ring, with each side claiming the children of Yucatán were on their side.

Stuffed bulls and other toys for sale, just outside the bullfighting ring, make for an uneasy sight. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

On the street outside, a small child identified by his mother as Marcos was seen drawing the image of a bull in chalk on the pavement. “How can you say that you love something and then kill it, it just does not make any sense to me,” he said.

The protests included several children who were not shy to share their views on the bullfight. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Protesters were more willing to discuss the issue than attendees. Roman, one of the few fans willing to talk, noted that deep down, he knew bullfighting’s days were numbered and that, in a way, he agreed that they should ultimately be outlawed. But he added that his memories of attending the ring with his father would keep him coming back for as long as he could.

A statue of a bull directly outside the entrance to Mérida’s bullfighting ring. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The future of bullfighting in Yucatán is likely to be determined by the courts. But momentum is on the side of those looking to abolish what they see as a cruel and bloody practice, tradition or not.

There is also the question of economics. Though the ring was full to the brim, with tickets ranging from 400 to 2,000 pesos (roughly US$20-100), the reality is that with just a handful of events a year, it seems unlikely that the spectacle can keep itself in business for much longer.

Despite the image often portrayed of matadors facing off against a mighty animal armed only with a sword, the reality is that the contest is far from a fair fight. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine