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Youth protest bullfighting in Mexico City

February 2, 2009 | 10:30 am

Young animal rights activists took to the streets in central Mexico City on Sunday, chanting "Corridas de toros -- vergüenza nacional (bullfights -- a national shame).'' They were protesting the hundreds of bullfights that take place here in Mexico.

The march was attended by about 800 people, most of them in their late teens or early 20s. It began at the Hundido Park on Avenida Insurgentes at midday, a few blocks from the Plaza de Toros Mexico, the biggest bullfighting venue in the country and one of the largest in the world with capacity to seat 48,000 people.

The protesters walked just a few blocks north, taking up a lane of traffic. Many of the motorists driving by honked in support.

Mariana Hernandez, a 20-year-old biology student clutching a sign that said "Ya Basta! (Enough, already)" said, "The bulls that they kill are living things. They shouldn't kill them for fun."

"The more of us that are here, the better," said Manual Hernandez, 19, another protester. "This is the second year that I've come here and there are more of us every time."

Many of the activists that we spoke to mentioned 11-year-old apprentice matador Michel "Michelito" Lagravere, who in January killed six calves in the bullring in Merida, southern Mexico.

"It's such a cruel act and that a child of this age is promoting this type of activity and being treated like a hero is really bad. He killed six calves -- in reality, that's six children," said 28-year-old Israel Arriola, another activist taking part in the march.

The protest was organized to coincide with the 63rd anniversary of the Plaza this week. Bullfighting was brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s and nowhere is it more popular outside of Spain than in Mexico.

Claudia Ortega, 25, a coordinator at Animanaturalis.org, one of the organizations behind the march, said a survey conducted by the nonprofit group found that 75% of Mexicans are against bullfighting, but that very few act on their views.

"Each year, 250,000 bulls or horses die in bullfighting or related activities" worldwide, she said. Ortega expressed hope that protests such as Sunday's might encourage more Mexicans to speak out.

Click here for more bullfighting coverage from 2008.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City.

See photos here on Flickr.

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