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Fighting bulls in Baltimore and in Spain

A little more than a year ago I remember blinking myself awake to startling news: “Escaped bulls in West Baltimore captured after hours-long standoff.” This was the headline of an article written by Wyatt Massey in my hometown paper, The Baltimore Sun, on July 22, 2016.

Now, I had been away for some time. My wife and I lived in Shanghai, China, but we had recently returned to our native city for the birth of our first child, Magnes, a month earlier in June. But this was news that was hard to reconcile with the image of the Baltimore I knew. Bulls from a 19th century German slaughterhouse running down Pennsylvania Avenue?

To be fair, as the article reminded me, and I vaguely recalled, this had not been the first bovine incident in Charm City. In June 2014 an escaped steer had trotted down North Avenue before being shot dead in Mid-Town Belvedere. Still, the idea of all these cattle in such close approximation to urban development seemed anachronistic, a nod to a time that had long since passed.

I was reminded of this recently when I attended my first bullfight in Mallorca, Spain. The debate surrounding this Spanish tradition has been raging for years, but it ramped up this past October when a constitutional court in Madrid overturned a 2010 ban against bullfighting in the Catalonia region of Spain, finding that bullfighting had protected cultural heritage status in Spain and couldn’t be banned.

Whatever your opinion about the grandeur or savagery of bullfighting, calling it a “fight” is hardly accurate. In six bullfights over the course of roughly two and a half hours one day in Palma, the largest city in Mallorca, every bull was put to death, and no matadors were harmed, implying a dominance of man over beast. As the crowd tries to hush everyone quiet for the last silent dance with death, a quick jab into the bull’s back humbles the animal into a state of submission…

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