A Spanish Region Moves to Ban Bullfighting

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To understand the state of bullfighting in Spain's northeastern Catalonia region, you need look no further than Las Arenas. The striking, late-19th century arena with faux Moorish arches, located near Barcelona's central Plaza de Espa&ncirc;a, once pulled in thousands of bullfighting aficionados for the traditional — and gory — Sunday corrida (the Spanish word for "bullfight"). Today, it is being converted into a shopping mall.

After decades of both intense anti-bullfighting activism and benign neglect (Las Arenas hasn't hosted a bullfight since 1990), Catalonia may become the first of Spain's autonomous regions to officially ban the sport. At the end of October, the Catalan parliament will begin the first round of voting on a popular initiative that seeks to outlaw bullfighting completely — and establish one more difference between the region and the rest of Spain. If the initiative survives this vote, lawmakers can propose amendments before a final vote is held, likely by the end of the year.

"It's a sign of popular support for the measure that we were able to collect 180,000 signatures — three times the number we needed to present a legal initiative before parliament," says Jennifer Berengueras, spokesperson for Prou (the word means "enough" in the Catalan language), the association that organized the campaign.

Indeed, Catalonia has long led the movement to do away with what is still referred to in Spain as the "national fiesta." In 2003, the region passed a sweeping animal protection law that, among its many measures, restricted towns without bullrings from building them and prohibited all children under the age of 14 from attending a corrida by placing the equivalent of an "R" movie rating on the event. The following year, Barcelona's municipal government declared the Catalan capital an "anti-bullfighting city" in a non-binding resolution; 70 other Catalan towns and cities have since followed suit. ..

... "Bullfighting used to be extremely popular in Catalonia," says Matthew Tree, a Barcelona-based author who writes frequently on Catalan identity. "But things change. Franco made it a bastion of fascist Spain, and that switched off a lot of Catalans. It was forced on them as this aggressively Spanish thing, and that was offensive to them."...

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