The End of An Era in Barcelona

Last week, on a late September evening, thousands of aficionados made their way into the bars and restaurants of Barcelona, to discuss the significance of the afternoon’s events namely the last bull fight to be held in Barcelona. This caused quite a bit of excitement both for people wanting to see the end of an era, and those who were glad to wave it goodbye. You might have missed this event, but there is still so much going on in Barcelona, and the weather is still warm enough to enjoy some late summer sun. A trip to Spain is always life affirming, and there are lots of great value, cheap flights right now.

ronda bull ring

The Last Dance

Once synonymous with all things Spanish, bull fighting is drawing to a close in Spain. Barcelona’s’ beautiful Art Deco Bullring hosted its last bullfight and it was a fitting venue to say goodbye to this uniquely Spanish event. Supporters came from far and wide, including El Nino Del Sol Naciente – the only known Japanese Torero.  More than 20,000 people packed the arena, to watch man and beast pit their wills against each other.

Depending on individual views, the bull fight is known as a sport or an art form and sometimes both – the costumes, the equipment, the decorated animals – everything is stylised and steeped in history. Bullfighting represents something of Spain that is unique, dark, and intense. It’s also provoked outcry during its time.

Animal Rights protested that Spain should no long condone the slaughter of animals for entertainment. In 2010, the Catalan parliament voted to ban the corrida throughout the province. It was never the scene of much bull fighting activity, but there have been regular fights in the Barcelona plaza for 97 years.

Young Barcelonans moved away from bull fighting, but there was a heightened sense of emotion among the crowd last week, who watched three matadors perform with and dispatch six bulls, in the time-honoured fashion. Cries of “Viva la fiesta” and even “Viva Espana” echoed from the stands, which were covered in banners and flags.  Serafin Marin was given the honour of being the last matador to face a bull. Jose Tomas, a leader of his generation of matadors, extracted murmured “ole’s from the crowd. As he walked the ring for the last time, cradling the roses that were thrown to him from the stands, hardened veterans of the bull fighting world wept.

Bull Fighting Museums

The poet, Lorca said in the 1930’s that the corrida was “the last serious thing in the modern world”. So, what will become of the great ring in Barcelona? A Museum perhaps.

Spain already has some very fine Bull Fighting Museums and one of the best known can be found in the town of Ronda in Andalucía. It has a spectacular setting, and the size and scale of the building is immense. In the cellar areas, you can see horse equipment, and matador costumes, including several of items known as the Suit of Lights – these are short jackets and trousers highly decorated in gold and silver wire, tiny mirrors, and ornate emroidery. These were exceptionally heavy – so the matadors needed a lot of physical stamina to move quickly and avoid fatal contact with their opponent but many of them didn’t. Some of the costumes are surprisingly tiny, almost child like – revealing the slight build of the athletes.   There are move style posters, photographs and short films, showing the realities of life in the ring.   Some of the costumes are surprisingly tiny, almost child like – revealing the slight build of the athletes.

You can also visit the  “square” Bull Ring, found in the little town of Mijas, high up above the coastline, near Fuengirola. You can take a flight to Malaga, and hop on a train down the coast, and then it’s a pleasant 30 minute bus ride up into the hills. This compact open bull ring sits at the very top of the town and  has incredible views – take a seat in the stalls, wait for the sun to set – it doesn’t take much to imagine what life was life when Bull fighting was part and parcel of everyday life.