Animal Studies Bibliography
Europe', Spain', and the Bulls
Carrie B. Douglass
Journal of Mediterranean Studies 1992, v. 2, pg. 69-79
Europe and Spain are cultural constructions with multiple meanings. The bulls are also a cultural construction, which have come to be the center of this cultural identity debate. Those who are for the bulls represent those who are on the traditional side of the fence and who wish to keep Spain separate from Europe. On the other hand, to be against the bulls is to be pro-modernization and European. This article addresses the cultural categories of Spain and Europe as represented since the 18 th century. The author focuses on the role of the bullfight in this cultural debate of identity and seeks to understand how the public view of the bullfight is changing.
The author opens with a brief history of Spain and how the current stereotype of Spain came to be. Spanish isolation from Europe began in the 16 th century when Catholic Spain rejected Europe with the Spanish stance against Erasmusian religion. By the 17 th century, Spain had lost control of the trade with American colonies and power shifted to northern European countries. During the Romance period in the early part of the 19 th century, romantic writers and artists came to Spain to recreate the vision of primitive Spain. Images of gypsies and bandits, flamenco dancers, Carmen, and the bullfighter remain steadfast today. By 1898, Spain had lost the last of its American Colonies. Many people wanted to solve Spain's economic and social problems by making it more European. These people were known as Europeanizers. Gradually Spain became more economically similar to Europe by becoming more industrialized. In 1985, Spain was recognized into the European common market.
The history of bullfighting began as a status symbol. Only royals could participate. Then at the beginning of the 18 th century, it became a common man's sport. Since the Enlightenment, many have argued that the bullfight was barbaric. Those who opposed the bulls (known as antitaurines) wanted to make Spain more European by eliminating the bullfights. They view bulls as unrational while Europe remains a symbol of rationality.
Douglass suggests that there are two types of people in Spain. Those who are for the bulls, and those who are against the bulls. Each of these groups are cultural identities. To be for the bulls means that you are traditional and you reject the idea of bringing Spain into the modern culture of Europe. To be against the bulls is to make the statement that you are supportive of the modernization and Europeanization of Spain. The antitaurines argue that the bullfights are a barbarous, non-European, thirdworldish, primitive anachronism (pg. ). Many feel it is cruel and inhumane. Before Spain became a member of the EEC, one member of British parliament propsed to ban's Spain entry until the sport was prohibited. Douglass suggests that this was an attack on Spain cultural independence. This reinstates the idea that Europe does not view the bulls as having a part in modern Europe.
Douglass goes on to suggest that there is also a third position in this cultural debate. This category would change the cultural meaning of the word Spain. She interviewed several people who admitted to being for the bulls but also to agreeing that it is barbaric and cruel. These people desire to embellish the effects of a modern economy, democracy, and society. However, this would mean they risk loosing their cultural heritage and the values and qualities of Spanish life. It is viewed that the European model of society is rational but the Spanish model of society concentrates on a better quality of life (pg. 75). Being for the bulls then reaffirms the cultural significance of Spain by suspending rationality and concentrating on the irrational value of the bulls.
So the symbolic significance of the bullfight can be understood by understanding how it is connected to questions of cultural identity as expressed in the cultural definitions of Spain and Europe. Douglass has shown how they were once antitheses of one another but have become more closely connected. Spain is a part of the larger Europe in that it takes on economic and political attributes of the larger culture but maintains the irrational social traditions through the bullfight as its symbol.