Thursday, June 14, 2012

From Olé to....Iambic Pentameters?

A future classroom? The plaza's bull corrals, which may have seen their last quadripeds.
The plaza's grand, mosque-like entrance. 
Mayor Gustavo Petro announced yesterday that there will be no more bullfights in La Santamaria, Colombia and South America's most important arena for La Fiesta Brava. That means that, unless bullfighting advocates can win a court battle, bullfighting is over in Bogotá - at least as long as Petro is mayor.

That leaves the question of what to do with the handsome bullfighting arena, which was built in the 1930s and can seat over 13,000 people. Petro suggested that the stadium could be converted into "a place for young people to meet with poets and writers." Poetry and writing are great. But that seems like a strange use, particularly when the city has lots of classrooms and theatres which would be lots more comfortable and convenient than an eight-decade-old bullfighting stadium.

Las Torres del Parque, behind the bullfighting plaza. Their
residents have blocked the plaza from staging concerts.
But the stadium does have lots of potential. It's a handsome building located in the heart of Bogotá with a unique Moorish architecture similar to southern Spain. It's also got a great setting, sandwiched between the planetarium, Independence Park, La Macarena neighborhood and the National and Modern art museums. And, as the TransMilenium line on 26th St. and a planned light rail line gets built on Ave. Septima, the plaza will have great transit access as well.

Old bullfighting posters in El Rincon Taurino,
across the street.
How about turning it into a cultural center, with spaces for theatre, movies, a library and small concerts. Large concerts have generated objections from the residents of Las Torres del Parque behind the stadium, who've even filed a lawsuit against the plaza. As a result, even when bullfighting has gone on, the stadium is empty and unused some ten months of the year.

A future poetry room? Visitors inside one of the bull corrals. 
Bullfights do move a lot of money - particularly because their fans tend to be wealthy, and the blocks around the plaza have several bullfighting-themed bars and restaurants. I went inside El Rincon Taurino, a tiny, two-room bar decorated with tattered bullfighting posters in which a crowd of mixed ages was drinking after-work beers.
Beside the plaza is the planetarium's dome. 

The owners, surprisingly, didn't seem to mind bullfighting's possible demise. But they said the city needed to find another use for the stadium, which the man called 'a white elephant.'

"But if they use it for concerts, then those fools in the towers complain," the man said, "and if they have bullfights, then there are protests."

The mayor of Medellin has followed Petro's lead, saying that Colombia's second-largest city will no longer finance bullfights there. However, Cartagena, which has not held bullfights for a long time, is organizing them again.

Related posts:

A Bullfighter's Philosophy

The bullfighting students are still out there practicing their veronicas.

Many a bull has walked down this tunnel to meet his death.


Sunset for bullfighting?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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