Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bullfighting Back in Bogotá?

The empty Santamaria bullring might see corridas again soon.
Bullfighting's coming back? Altho a court has ruled that Mayor Petro did not have the authority to break the city's contract to put on bullfighting, you can bet that Petro will do his best to defend one of his few - and perhaps his most signature - accomplishment.

The court ruled that bullfighting enjoys legal protection because it is a piece of cultural tradition. Petro has not permitted bullfights in the stadium for the last two years, and recently said he'd retire before allowing bulls to return there. But after the court ruled, the mayor said he'd respect the decision. At the same time, Petro also claims that sections of the 83-year-old plaza are in danger of collapse and that the building needs a major remodeling.

The bullfighters suspect the mayor of inventing that supposed danger as an excuse to not allow bullfights, and that in remodeling the stadium the city would make it unusable for bullfighting. Whatever the truth, Petro may now insist that holding major events in the plaza would be hazardous and that the building needs an expensive multi-year workover.

The court also seemed to give Petro a way out by allowing him six months to allow bullfighting in the plaza. Six months from now is early March 2015, and Bogotá's annual bullfighting season is in January and February. So Petro could possibly delay bullfighting until at least 2016 without violating the court ruling.

The Moorish-style Santamaria stadium was built in 1931.
It's understandable that Petro will do all he can to block bullfighting for reasons besides his concerns about animal welfare and the celebration of violence. The anti-bullfighting activists have been a small but vociferous part of Petro's coalition.

And Petro has few other accomplishments to point to. Courts have ruled against two of his other signature accomplishments: his city-wide land-use plan and his reorganization of the city's garbage collection scheme. Meanwhile, hopes that Petro would boost the city's recycling rate and find a new formula to reduce traffic jams have been disappointed.

Bullfighting advocates certainly continue to be dubious about Petro's intentions. A group of young bullfighters called novilleros have been hunger striking in front of the plaza for more than a month demanding the return of bullfights. After the court's ruling, they vowed to continue until a bullfight is actually held in the stadium.
Young bullfighters have been hunger striking in front of the stadium for more than a month. They now vow to continue until the first bullfight is held there.
Bullfighters train in front of the Santamaria Plaza.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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