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Bullfighting Returns to Its Largest Arena. A Fight Over Its Future Goes On

A court ruling allowed bullfights to resume at La Plaza México in Mexico City after they had been outlawed for almost two years. But the conflict continues since a federal court again delayed the proceedings.

Anticipation Evening in La Plaza Mexico

The world’s largest bullfighting arena, La Plaza Mexico, was packed to the gills at 4:30 PM with an estimated 42,000 spectators. There was a buzz as they anticipated bulls returning to the ring following 624 days of legal hurdles. However, there was a small delay due to protestors outside. Mexico City’s square erupted in cheers as the three matadors and their bullfighting crew finally came to meet the audience. The first bull charged out at 4:58 PM, igniting the ring. Over the course of the following two and a half hours on Sunday, supporters cheered, smoked cigars, ate grilled meat and chips, drank beer and mezcal, and watched five bulls die.

Scenes at La Plaza Mexico Never Seen Before

“Watching ‘Olé’ and the plaza come to life is an incredible experience,” said Mexico City resident Eric Reyes, 30, who was seated in the stands. The world’s largest bullfighting nation and city, La Plaza Mexico, has seen a major legal dispute since bullfighting was brought to its colonies in Latin America by Spain in the 1500s. Just a few days before it was scheduled to start, a court in La Plaza Mexico temporarily suspended bullfighting last Wednesday, sparking a significant legal battle. La Plaza Mexico’s authorities have contested the ruling.

Animal rights activist Jerónimo Sánchez said, “No one involved in bullfighting becomes a better human being.” In addition to Spain and Mexico, this practice is still in place in five additional countries: France, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador, despite its dwindling popularity as a result of demonstrations and growing criticism over decades. A national organisation that promotes bullfighting claims that 326 plazas or arenas still exist in Mexico, where bullfighting was first documented in 1526. Bullfighting has been illegal in five states in Mexico since 2013, but for almost two years, the future of the sport has been uncertain due to legal disputes. Bullfighting was successfully stopped in La Plaza, Mexico, in 2022 by a federal judge who cited the “offensive” treatment of bulls and its link to social harm.

The Struggle for the Future of Bullfighting

For the past eight years, Mario Zulaika, a 42-year-old former bullfighter who is now the director of La Plaza Mexico, has battled to maintain bullfighters’ jobs in Spain for La Plaza Mexico. According to him, “It hit me like a bucket of cold water.” According to Zulaika, La Plaza Mexico held thirty bullfighting events in a typical year, directly employing 2,000 people and indirectly benefiting thousands more who worked in the nearby restaurants and farms that supplied the bulls. La Plaza Mexico’s authorities were successful in December in their appeal against the Mexican Supreme Court’s decision to lift the ban, resuming bullfighting. By the end of March, they had begun arranging events while taking the case’s eligibility into consideration.

Court Involvement: New Prohibition on Bullfighting Events

In response to a petition by an animal rights group, a federal judge intervened on Wednesday and thwarted their plans by placing a new ban on bullfights in the arena. Bulls should have the same legal protections as other animals in the nation, according to the argument made. Later on, Mr. Zulaika stated that La Plaza Mexico’s attorneys had already filed an appeal and hoped for a prompt outcome. There were bullfights on Sunday and Monday. “I am more surprised than disappointed,” he said. There is no one so extreme as not to see that 40,000 people are in attendance, proving that bullfighting is a thriving industry.”

La Plaza Mexico: Bullfighting’s Economic Powerhouse

Although bullfights are common throughout the nation, Mexico City’s arena serves as both the main hub for the sport’s commercial growth and a crucial platform for bullfighters to further their careers. “They are risking everything to create art and something magical,” stated 39-year-old José Mauricio, a Mexican who finished his 18-year career as a matador despite breaking his arm and breaking many ribs in the process. The return of bullfighting to La Plaza Mexico, according to Paola Sain Roman, a 28-year-old Mexican bullfighter, is essential. “It sheds light on this tradition and culture.”

Outside La Plaza Mexico, there are protests and vandalism.

More than 300 demonstrators chanted, played drums, carried placards, and obstructed traffic at La Plaza Mexico prior to last week’s bullfighting event. Here is not art, according to one placard. It is agony, this.” “No animal should suffer,” declared 29-year-old vegan Chantel Delgado, who was covered in a red cloth. Like us, they are all admirable characters. A job can be found in different ways. This isn’t a tradition for me. That is not typical.” A group of demonstrators outside La Plaza Mexico tried to smash a fence and splattered paint on the arena walls, frequently writing “killers,” but were restrained by riot-clothed police officers. They incited the supporters by throwing trash and water at the police.

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