Something Just Happened in a Spanish Bullfight That Hasn't Happened in 35 Years


The news: Deslio the bull: 3, Matadors: 0

A 68-year-old San Isidrio tradition was halted Wednesday after taking an unexpected turn for the worse. The festival, which launches the bullfighting season in Spain, was suspended after multiple gorings of three different matadors. 

David Mora, Antonio Nazare and Saúl Jiménez Fortes were trampled and bloodied during separate attacks by Deslio, a black bull that weighed nearly 1,200 pounds. Mora, the first torero of the day to get hurt, also suffered the worst injuries. The bull rammed his horn deep into Mora's leg and tossed him in the air.

Reports indicate that Mora is still in the hospital recovering from serious but no longer life-threatening injuries. Nazare and Jiménez Fortes also sought medical treatment after their encounters with Deslio, though Jiménez Fortes managed to finish off the bull before exiting the ring. 

For the first time in 35 years, the Plaza de las Ventas ring was forced to abandon the day's festivities. The last time the festival closed its doors was in 1979, after two bullfights ended in a similar fashion.

Bullfighting 101: The spectacle itself is called the corrida, wherein a bullfighter will taunt and deceive a raging bull in front of a crowd. Matadors are usually highly skilled and talented professionals who dedicate their lives to the sport. Traditionally, a torero wears a bright and elaborate outfit, called the traje de luces, which translates to "the suit of lights" and allows for easy movement. Except for rare occasions, the bull always dies during the fight. 

Is the tradition going out of fashion? Somewhat. In general the sport, which may be up to 4,000 years old, is not as well regarded as it once was, even in Spain. Famous toreros from the '60s and '70s had Justin Bieber-level fame and notoriety, drawing huge crowds and admired by fans across the world. But between 2007 and 2012, there was a 40% drop in attendance at major bullfights, thanks to high ticket prices and the country's economic crisis. There were only 1,014 major corridas in 2013, down 51% since 2007. 

The sport also faces opposition for its inhumane treatment of animals. A bullfighting ban went into effect in 2013 in Catalonia, Spain's autonomous northern region. Backlash from organizations like PETA and Stop Bullfighting bemoans the brutality of the spectacle. 

Last year, the Spanish legislature granted bullfighting cultural heritage status to safeguard it from potential bans in the future. Bullfighting, while inhumane, is also a custom deeply ingrained in Spanish history.

For a nation currently buried in an economic quagmire, leaders may grasp at anything that reminds voters of better times.