08 June 2009

La Corrida

I am certainly not going to undertake a full disquisition on the morality of this spectacle. My own feelings concerning the matter, unlike my feeling about so many other things, have not changed one bit since I attended my first corrida 38 years ago in Pamplona, Spain. They are feelings of great ambivalence. This is a very close question for me. On Saturday I resolved the question the way I always do. They were going to conduct the corrida whether Steve Warbasse attended or not. So I decided to attend.

I may very fairly be accused of rationalizing my attendance, but here are just a few observations for what they are worth.

Having grown up amid the routine nurturing and slaughter of animals, I can assure anyone who is at all curious about the matter that untold millions of animals suffer immensely in the slaughterhouses of our country and the abattoirs of the world every day. And these animals experience fear as well as pain. There is no question in my mind about that. It is only the quality of that fear that varies from species to species.

The suffering of those animals facing death imminently is as nothing compared with the suffering of other millions who live on in close confinement, either in confinement facilities on corporate farms or in testing laboratories.

Most of those who object to the corrida have no problem going to the meat market and purchasing animal flesh. With the purchase of meat, they are paying for the suffering and death of those animals, while at the same time averting their eyes from the sight of that suffering and death. They do not ever go to the stockyards. They do not ever visit the packing plant. There are city children who have no idea where meat comes from.

And that is the very difference that is cited as the primary reason for the immorality of the corrida by those who squeal with delight at a barbecue. The corrida, unlike the slaughterhouse, is immoral, it is said, because those in attendance are there to take enjoyment in watching the suffering and death of another creature which has no choice in the matter. It makes no difference to the antagonist of the corrida that some of the poor of the city will have their rare opportunity of barbecued range-fed beef as a result.

I do not know about all that. There seems to me to be a whiff of hypocrisy about it. Setting all that aside, I have become convinced of the following random matters.

The spectators at the corrida are not there to take pleasure in the physical pain of the bull.

The bull at the corrida does not experience fear. These incredible animals, the product of centuries of selective breeding, have had all fear bred out of them. Fear is simply no longer a part of their genetic makeup.

If I were a bull given no choice in the matter, I would rather live in the pastures of México and then die without fear in the manner that a bull dies in the corrida than be castrated, suffer long confinement in an American feed lot, and then experience the slow suffering of fear and death in the slaughterhouse. There is no doubt in my mind about this based upon a lifetime of observations with my own eyes. This question is not even a close one.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I always chose a seat in sol, the cheap seats in the sun, even though the very reason those seats are cheap is that it gets incredibly hot. These are my poor friends in the sol section. They pay about half the price of admission that the rich people pay to sit in the shady section or sombre. We poor people pay $7.44 American. The rich people pay $14.88 American.

I sat with a new acquaintance, Jesús, whom I met in the ticket line, a poor man in his fifties who was quite knowledgeable about the matadors of the day. The scheduled start time was 4:30 p.m., but as is the case so often in México, the affair started an hour late. There was plenty of time for our halting conversation. Jesús had no English whatsoever, and so some of our conversation was acted out.

I was assured by more than one person, that the matadors of this day were of a quality far above those who normally perform in San Miguel de Allende. Instead of three matadors with two bulls apiece, there were seven matadors, each with one bull.

The villain of the corrida, the picador. He is booed without fail.

One of the two matadors who planted their own banderillas.

My favorite of the afternoon was named Mauricio. Señor Mauricio not only planted his own banderillas, he also borrowed the picador's horse and did the picador's nasty job himself. All of these young men were incredibly pretty. That seems to be a job qualification. If one is an ugly matador, it must be an uphill battle indeed.

When it goes well—and it does not always go well—there is a beauty about it that is every bit the equal of a masterfully done ballet.

But it is a guilty pleasure for us norteamericanos.


msmith2671 said...

Sorry about the late comment. I've been too busy to catch up with your blog. It is hard to believe it is 38 years since Pamploma. For what it is worth, I was extremely proud of you for having the courage to do the "run." One of those lifetime experiences that are so good for the psyche.

Ruth said...

I remember your account of Pamplona, Steve.