At the end of this past July, lawmakers in the region of Catalonia, Spain, made the official decision to ban bullfighting within their region. Bullfighting is a Spanish tradition originating from gladiatorial fights that took place when the Roman Empire occupied the Iberian Peninsula, enduring the various reigns to come. The sport is held on the same tiers of cultural sacredness as their gastronomy, historic landmarks, and diverse flora and fauna.
While animal rights advocates in Catalonia encourage this change, the rest of Spain ridicules Catalonia for it. Rather than regarding this ban as modern, it is believed to sustain the ever-growing “identity debate” of the separation of Catalonia from the rest of the nation, one of the many separatist trends in Spain.
Spain is a country of nationalists, but also regionalists—people proud of not only their country, but proud of their regional tendencies as well. Disagreeing with any characteristic of their tradition is considered a personal offense against the kingdom. Like sumo wrestling in Japan or like baseball in America, bullfighting is an essential part of the history of Spain. It’s no surprise that banning a national pastime rouses the true meaning of Spanish identity.
Despite stimulating the Catalan separatist movement, banning bullfighting represents more than anti-nationalism and animal rights. It’s a matter of shifting from outdated thinking to contemporary practices in all aspects of life, essential to being part of the European Union. However, a country as traditional as Spain views this change as uprooting their original cultural foundation.
When it comes to tradition, Spain takes the cake: located on the Iberian Peninsula, jutting out from the European continent into the Atlantic Ocean, Spain was once a world power under many empires. Every portion of history is displayed in their food, people, and architecture. After a 30-year-long dictatorship under Fransisco Franco, Spain has only evolved as a modern democratic nation in the past 35 years.
Catalonia is one of the seventeen provinces that make up the Kingdom of Spain. Located in the northeast corner of Spain, this region shares the longest border of any region with France, and thus the largest geographic connection to the rest of Europe. This connection influences Catalonia’s decision to outlaw bullfighting, and is visible in other characteristics of their regional culture: Barcelona is a significantly modern city in the eyes of all of Europe.
As charming the globally undisturbed pueblos may be, there is a lack of modernity and access to other world cultures. Not only does this create intolerance, but as a result, Spain will never be capable of being the power-nation they once were. While Spain has a history as rich as its red wine, it will be left in the dust if it doesn’t modernize ethical issues.
As a whole continent, Europe holds outdated nationalist tendencies—a result of sharing borders with clashing cultural differences every which way. With such close quarters, playing hop-scotch with quarreling countries is clearly a dangerous game. In Spain, it causes violent attacks like those of the ETA, a Basque separatist movement.
Banning bullfighting is just one way that Catalonia hopes to support the rest of the European Union, and therefore the world, in forward thinking. Creating more globally sound goals will result in more international connections. Globalization is a necessary part of life that doesn’t necessarily mean giving up tradition. But it does mean that ignoring the ever-changing mien of culture itself, fueled by evolving technology and the waning resources of Earth, is no longer an option.
To eliminating the bad and sticking with the good: a little less bullfighting, a little more red wine.