Monday, December 3, 2012

Julian, Boy Bullfighter

Many young boys aspire to be football stars, famous musicians, even presidents...but to be a bullfighter? It sounds like something out of a long-past era. And job prospects for bullfighters are dimming - the sport (or art) is being restricted in the few countries where it's still practiced, including in Colombia. Early this year, Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro prohibited bullfighting in La Plaza Santamaria, altho bullfighters then sued and won a court ruling that municipal governments could not bann bullfighting where it is traditional. The battle over bullfighting will continue.

Meanwhile, most mornings in the Plaza Santamaria, young men practice their passes and kills, dreaming of one day carrying out their moves with real bulls in front of thousands of spectators. At nine, Julian is one of the youngest. But he, and his father, Jose Ignacio, 29 and a bullfighter himself, are confident that Julian has the skills - and the backing.

That's why they believe that Julian can make it in a profession that's perhaps in its twilight.

"There are powerful people behind him," says the father.

But Julian, like all bullfighters, will have to overcome the profession's dangers. He's already been gored once, by a small cow. Is he scared? I ask him.

"Sometimes," he admits.

"They call me the Colombian Juli," adds Julian, who is not strong on humility. El Juli, a Spaniard, is one of the current stars of the bullfighting world.

Jose Ignacio, who's been injured multiple times bullfighting, tho never seriously, says he and Julian's mother are proud of the boy, but that they'll support him in whatever profession he chooses.

Bullfighting appears to have a genetic component - at least, many bullfighters are sons and grandsons of bullfighters. But Jose Ignacio says he's the first bullfighter in his family, altho his parents were great bullfighting fans.

Both Julian and his father know well that their profession is under siege. Animal rights activists regularly protest bullfighting (but never cockfighting or industrial farming, which seem to me to be much crueler). Jose Ignacio accuses animal rights activists of distorting bullfighting. Julian cites "an anti-bullfighting scientist" who Julian says demonstrated that bulls feel little pain in the heat of battle. That makes sense, since a person too shrugs off pain while charged with adrenalin.

But that doesn't address the making a spectacle out of killing and violence.

But if he doesn't make it, and bullfighting ends in Bogotá, Julian may have another professional option - guiding tourists thru the Santamaria Plaza, which he does with lots of enthusiasm and passion.

Jose Ignacio's T-shirt says 'Bullfighting is ar and culture.'

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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