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Every second Tuesday of September a small town tucked in the middle of Spain, Tordesillas, holds an annual event that draws 45.000 visitors. A bull is lanced, speared and harassed to death by 500 men in the name of culture and tradition, this event has been happening since 1453.
‘El Toro De La Vega’ is one of the many controversial ‘Blood Fiestas’ that take place in villages and cities all over Spain every year. ‘Blood Fiestas’ and ‘Bullfighting Shows’ are different though both of them use, or according to animal rights activists abuse, bulls in order to carry out these kind of festivals.
While bullfighting shows take place in a bullfighting ring commonly known as ‘plaza de toros’ and have designated bullfighters or Toreros, ‘Blood Fiestas’ normally happen on streets, squares or entire towns where people gather to enjoy themselves.
Bullfighting and blood fiestas are considered part of Spain’s cultural patrimony and therefore millions of Euros are granted every year by The EU, central government, and local authorities to support what they claim is Spain’s unique art form.
Some of these bull-related events are worldwide known such as ‘San Fermines: The Running Of The Bulls’ where bulls and runners zigzag down the narrow streets of Pamplona but some others like ‘El Toro De La Vega’ involve what detractors state is an out-dated form of animal torture that shouldn’t be happening nowadays.
Tourists and even locals are often unaware of the real damage and harm the bull has to go through in Tordesillas because of a well-designed shielding campaign that surrounds the event.
There are several non-written policies that prohibit the use of cameras especially when the bull is being taken down, which endangers even more the work of the many photographers, journalists, not to mention undercover activists. Last year ‘El Intermedio’, a popular Spanish TV show sent a crew to Tordesillas with one goal: find some locals who were not in favor of this event.
The results were astonishing, on camera everyone seemed to agree with the tradition and the few who didn’t would only confess under the condition that their faces had to be blurred out and their names kept secret. Every year animal rights activists collect signatures and schedule various demonstrations to show their disapproval of the event.
They post videos, share ideas, and a couple of days before the event is set to be held, they show up in Tordesillas facing the local hostility of those who defend their right to enjoy their traditions. ‘Afligido’ (Spanish for sorrowful) was the 1300-pound bull that was previously hand-picked for this year’s edition.
Last September 13th a lancer on foot struck the fatal stab that brought Aflijido down to a cheerful crowd that applauded the lancer’s courage. The lancer will be honored at the town hall and dub local hero before his neighbor’s eyes.
On his way through the village, Aflijido wounded two people but it was later announced that both men’s injuries were not severe unlike 17 other participants, that had to receive medical treatment after a woman pulled a pepper spray bottle out of a bag and attacked some of the attendees.
She was believed to be an undercover protestant that hid in the crowd before she turned on the audience, causing respiratory problems and panic attacks. The activist was arrested after some Toro de La Vega supporters held her down and unleashed their rage on her.
Tradition or cruelty? While supporters and activists duke it out on the streets, demonstrations and debates, Afligido has already lost this battle.