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Amateur bullfighting festival in Mexico ends with 23 injuries

August 25, 2008 |  1:09 pm

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More than 20 people were gored or injured by bulls this weekend in Huamantla in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala after taking on one of the 24 bulls let loose into the streets as part of an annual festival.

The Huamantlada, which is often compared to the running of the bulls event in Pamplona, takes place every year in this small rural town. The comparison to the event in Spain is inaccurate: the bulls didn't run anywhere. The town's 17 central streets were transformed into huge pens for the half-ton animals, which were mercilessly taunted by the crowd and pelted with plastic bottles and beer cans.

Many of the men who challenged the bulls, matador-style, knew what they were doing and approached the animals with caution and capes. But many didn't. The combination of alcohol, a screaming crowd and poor judgment was too much: 23 people ended up being carried away on stretchers by the Red Cross.

But all of those men who survived the wrath of the bulls — scathed or unscathed — were treated like homecoming heroes.

"Give me another beer! It didn't hurt!" shouted Armando Ortiz, a 25-year-old student who earned a standing ovation from the crowd after one of the bulls rushed at him and knocked him down.

The festival is a big family event, and mothers sat with tiny babies in the makeshift bleachers that had been put up around the town. The Huamantlada is a legacy of the Spanish settlers, who used to bring their bulls through this city to be quarantined on their way to bullfights in Mexico City. The locals caught the Spanish passion for bullfighting, and the tradition stuck.

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"It's a tradition that's very much ours," said Laura Pimental, a 30-year old teacher sitting safely in the stands. "But take care!"

She and her three friends were staying well above the action.

"Like this — observing and nothing more because it's very dangerous. We prefer being up here, watching, saying hello to friends, and having a good time."

Not everybody was so cautious, but at least nobody lost their lives. Last year, there were 24 injuries and one death — Pimental saw the whole thing. The victim was an older man, and very drunk, she said. He didn't want to sit with his family; he wanted to touch the bull.

"The animal took out his insides," Pimental recalled.

Watch La Plaza for a video dispatch on this weekend's event.

-- Deborah Bonello in Huamantla, Mexico

Photo: An amateur bullfighting festival in Mexico sees men with varying experience take on 1,000-pound bulls. Credit: Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times


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