As part of Spain considers an end to bullfighting, conservative regions seek to enshrine it
MADRID — Three conservative regions of Spain defended bullfighting on Friday and pledged legislation to enshrine it as a pillar of their cultural heritage, as another area of the country considers banning the sport.
Bullfighting remains very popular in some regions of Spain, but it is no longer the powerful draw it was generations ago. Today's crowds at bull rings are largely middle-aged, while younger generations find their heroes in music or soccer. Some people find the killing and bloodshed of the sport repugnant.
But in Spain, it is up to each region to decide whether to keep bullfighting legal, not the national government.
In December, a bill to ban bullfighting in the independent-minded region of Catalonia, home to Barcelona, cleared its first hurdle and is now under debate. Another area of Spain -- the Canary Islands -- made the sport illegal in 1991, but it was never very popular there.
On Friday, Madrid, Valencia and southern Murcia fought back.
The conservative areas said they not only will keep the bullfighting legal, they also will give the sport a protected cultural heritage.
Bullfighting has "formed part of Mediterranean and Spanish culture since time immemorial," Madrid regional President Esperanza Aguirre said. "Look at Goya, Picasso, Federico Garcia Lorca and beyond to Hemingway and Orson Welles. They were interested in bullfighting as an art because it is a cultural asset deserving protection."
The debate about bullfighting in Catalonia has received wide media coverage in Spain and has irked some conservatives, including Spain's Popular Party, which sees it as an attack on bedrock Spanish values. The party runs the Madrid, Valencia and Murcia regional governments.
Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de La Vega said Spain's Socialist government does not intend to intervene but that it generally opposes such bans.
She said the government recognizes that bullfighting has great social support but also understands the feelings of its detractors.
In Catalonia, the sport's popularity has declined in recent years, and Barcelona now has the region's only active bull ring.
-- Associated Press
Photo: Spanish bullfighter Julian Lopez performs a muleta pass during a bullfight in Colombia on Jan. 23. Credit: Raul Arboleda / AFP/Getty Images