Sunday, August 7

‘Feminist’ and ‘Nigeriano’ sentence the Gijón bullring that was never full

The mayor of Gijón, Ana González, was with the family last Sunday night when the poster of the bullfight, the last of the Begoña fair this year, arrived on WhatsApp. He immediately asked to verify that it was not a montage. Two of the evening bulls were called Feminist and Nigerian and to the councilor it seemed like a joke in bad taste. With the nomenclature confirmed, González waited until Wednesday to announce that the joke was not funny and that he had decided not to extend the concession to the company that manages the municipal arena. The bulls would not return to Gijón. “The lack of freedom is absolute,” claimed right-hander Fran Rivera, who said he felt “a lot of fear.”

Gijón City Council puts an end to the bullfighting fair

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Less scared the Juli, another bullfighter, demanded a rectification and accused González of wanting to “bathe bullfighting with political and ideological overtones.” It turns out, the bullfighter explained in a video on Twitter, that bulls receive the names of their mothers, a tradition without humorous spirit. What of Nigerian and Feminist It was an “unhappy coincidence,” reiterates Carlos Zúñiga, the manager of the plaza. “The rancher bought it in 1986 from another man who has already died,” he insists, with which there is no way to verify if there was then an onomastic ringing.

Received the explanation, the councilor has indicated successively from Wednesday until today that the names could have been changed, and that in any case the decision not to renew the current concession, approved in 2016 for three years with the possibility of extension for another three (2022 would be the last, since 2020 was not taken into account due to the coronavirus) it was already taken previously. “The bulls were already clearly questioned, every day there are more people who do not want them,” he defended. González refers to statements by the Asturian PSOE in this regard in recent years. The Socialists took back the baton in 2019 and rule alone.

The decision has caused an informative echo in the country that at times has competed with the withdrawal of western troops from Afghanistan, despite the relative success of the bulls in Gijón, where it is very difficult for the plaza to fill up. “I only remember when José Tomás came, that people camped at night to get tickets,” says Pedro López, vice president of the Gijona bullfighting club. On the same Wednesday, he approached with other fans to protest around the square (the next day, local representatives of PP, Ciudadanos and Foro Asturias also appeared individually). “They say we were about 70, I think there would be some more,” he says. The suddenness of the announcement has caught local bullfighters off guard, “like in a dream.” López is pessimistic because, after all, the square is municipal, and even if it were to be sued, the City Council would be worth raising the fee to prevent a fair that is hardly profitable.

“Economically it is not to shoot rockets,” says Zúñiga about the business in Gijón, which only gives him “the satisfaction of keeping the flame of bullfighting alive in Asturias.” This year he paid 25,000 euros in canon, compared to the usual 50,000, because the cartel was reduced by half due to COVID. That as far as he is concerned, because in terms of the economic return to the hospitality industry, Zúñiga figures it between eight and 10 million euros. A report from the local chamber of commerce regarding the 2017 fair, retrieved by New Spain, speaks of 6.7 million, pulling high in terms of visitor spending (almost one million euros in “purchases”), and even recognizing that the average attendance barely exceeded 30% of the capacity.

Attendance has been precisely one of the great problems of bulls in Asturias. In Oviedo, the last bullfight was in 2007. Peñista López, who came to Gijón as a teenager from Palencia, has been a subscriber since 1974 and recalls that in those years the square “was sad, there would be about 400 subscribers.” “The fans were very asleep, they did not have much roots, and that the square is from 1888”, he recalls. Half a century later, the busiest days are “three-quarters, or a long half,” he points out, although it is normal to see “full buses and many taxis” on big days, and friends coming “from Bilbao and Santander.”

Be that as it may, the mayor settled the money issue. “There are decisions that are not made due to economic factors,” she said, and recalled that trafficking in women also brings many benefits.

The growing opposition to bullfights is also important. This same week, the Cantabrian Hydrographic Confederation prevented organizing a bullfight in a removable plaza in Cangas de Onís because the Güeña River passes nearby. It did not help the promoters that the initiative had added 55,000 signatures against. It happens in other squares in the north, such as Pontevedra, where the city council authorized a capacity of 75% and the promoter resigned because it was not profitable for him.

“It will be very difficult to return,” laments López. “If it is not celebrated for two years in a row, it costs more to regain the fans, it is lost,” he adds. In the midst of the controversy, on Friday, next to the square, the restaurant The Tendido I did not notice the downturn, according to the worker who answered the phone hastily: “We are up to the top.”