Sunday, January 16

Sexist traditions and animal abuse in the ‘jaleos’ of Menorca


Another year is ending in which restrictions against COVID-19 have seized the cultural treasure of our towns and cities. The popular festivals, especially the multitudinous and summer ones, have been diluted – when not suspended – for fear of a massive contagion. Another year without parties. A shame? It depends.

In Spain there are some “parties” with animals whose indefinite prohibition – now temporary due to the pandemic – would be celebrated by many people for the good of many other animals. We could talk about the ‘enjoy’ of the pigs, the infamous correbous, the ducks to the sea and a thousand more savages that the covid quarantined, but since the parties that I know well are others, today we will try to understand why not Menorca’s ‘jaleos’ need to return, the popular festivals in which the island’s jet horses are the kings. Or rather, slaves. Inside video.


Are ‘jaleos’ animal abuse?

Anyone who has been in a ruckus has realized that they were in a ruckus. The first of the year is the most crowded, in Ciutadella, and from Sant Joan until mid-September, ‘jaleos’ are held every weekend in a different town. An excited crowd gathers around the black horses that enter the plaza one by one, taking turns. For a few minutes his rider forces him to “dance” and get on two legs while those present – locals and tourists in ecstasy – crowd together and celebrate the capering. Then the horse leaves and another enters. And so, between 50 and 80 times depending on the noise. An official document of 1928 defines the party thus:

“As is the custom of many years (…) the cavalcade passes in front of a music band that, on top of a raised platform, plays a jota, making the riders make the horses they ride get as close to it as possible. possible, getting them to stand up, dance, jump and others, making themselves the delight of the public “.

It is not easy to forget the first time you see the wide eyes and the thick white foam that comes out of the mouth of a horse that is terrified. There is an obvious risk that they will suffer anxiety attacks, heat stroke –The ‘jaleos’ are in summer– and wounds caused by the spurs and the bit. It seems little to me what happens to these animals, taking into account that the rider forces them to get up on their hind legs again and again, and jump to the rhythm of the band while a crowd of people – most of them drunk – overwhelm them and shake. I was, in his day, one of these cretins.

In defense of the residents of Ciutadella I will say that alcohol consumption is neither greater nor less than in other popular festivals – it is unleashed, as in all – with the exception that here there are animals of several hundred kilos jumping among thousands of people .

And is that the ‘jaleos’ are not only dangerous for horses. Wounded apart, in 2014, during the Jocs des Pla, a Catalan tourist died being run over by one of these horses and the mayor of Ciutadella, after accepting his guilt, had the honesty to resign: “A life is not worth a position,” he said. A phrase, by the way, that I doubt we hear from the generation of politicians who are “managing” the pandemic, to say the least.

Let’s go back to the ‘jaleos’. It was not -only- because of the fatal incident of the Jocs des Pla that the Animalista Association of the Balearic Islands (ASSAIB) has called several times for an end to the ‘jaleos’: “In the wild, equidae are not predators but prey. Their instinct is to flee from danger and to correct this natural impulse, horses must undergo a brutal process of dressage and saddle from the moment they are born ”.

The conselleria Balearic of the Environment tells them that “The horse does not suffer”, a statement that sounds familiar to us and that of course is false. You don’t have to be an ethologist, veterinarian or ex-horseman to admit that the chaos of the ‘jaleos’ makes the horses suffer.

Indeed, horses can come to repress their instinct – to flee from danger – if and only if they are subjected to the brutality of dressage denounced by the ASSAIB. Of course, even going through this “training”, a little experienced rider and an overly dedicated audience – let’s put it that way – can cause a young or nervous horse to suffer a real anxiety attack. And, in the worst case, the rider loses control as happened in those Jocs des Pla that all the neighbors, projaleos and antijaleos, remember with pain.

Are the ‘jaleos’ macho?

Let’s take a parenthesis on the speciesist question to talk about equality. In Ciutadella women cannot participate as riders. Before entering that garden, we must make it clear that it is not the intention of this article to make an anthropological study of the Menorcans and their festivals, but to point out the injustice, cruelty and – now we will see – machismo that hides behind such archaic traditions how are you.

The inclusion of women as protagonists – with the permission of the horses – is a topic that has been overcome throughout the island except in Ciutadella, the city with the most important festivals in Menorca. For Sant Joan, according to the protocol –which obviously women did not write– they have their role. At home, of course.

In summary, they should dress the men of the house in their shirts of pristine white, ironed and starched, and make sure that the dress gown and the rider’s garment are gleaming. During those days it is also common to receive visitors, so tradition reserves for women the “honor” of having a very clean house, with whitewashed walls and the table set with the typical delicacies of Sant Joan. Nothing to go out riding in Sant Joan. No prominence.

As I said, throughout life this was a subject silenced by the old gentlemen, the same ones who under the pretext of tradition – patriarchy – and protocol – patriarchy but dressed in full dress – perpetuate that oppression that relegates women to a secondary role in any celebration with medieval roots: from the Salto de la Reja de la Virgen del Rocío to the Carnivals of Cádiz, passing through the Mystery of Elche, the ‘impalaos de Valverde’ or the Toro de la Vega. It could go on ad infinitum: festivals that represent a whole town but where the protagonists are only men because men even more macho than these decided centuries ago.

The fact is that after two years without ‘jaleos’, the entity ‘Salvem Sant Joan’, whose objective is to reverse the tourist overcrowding of the Ciutadella festival – something more than reasonable – made it very clear that it will not accept that the City Council adapt the parties to the new times and include women as riders. Look out for the arguments of Joan Fedelich, the president of the Association, who portrayed himself like this a few days ago:

It says this: “In Sant Joan We do not want politics or, with all due respect, women involved. They know and enjoy doing what they do. The issue of women, for our part, is unnecessary. We are tired of hearing that if women do that, women do that. Women, my mother, my wife… they know what they have to do for Sant Joan. There is nothing more to talk about this aspect ”.

In short, if one responds to its height, it ends up in the National Court. It goes without saying that those who have to decide their role in the ‘jaleos’ are women, but come on, seeing the panorama, between the ultra macho and animal abuse, the options are either to fight for a sad speciesist privilege or to fight for the abolition of festivals with animal suffering. Yours is the choice.

When did this madness start?

The ‘jaleos’ tradition dates back to the beginning of the 14th century, when in the middle of an ecclesiastical parade the musicians began to play and a horse got scared. It is said that the rider, a man of undeniable ability, was able to contain the horror of the animal he was riding by lifting it up on two legs and making it give those famous little jumps that gave a lot of laughter to those present.

From that day until the massification of the last ‘jaleos’ – in that pre-covid 2019 – many things have changed. In other centuries, horsemen – the caixers– They used the horses with which they worked in the fields during the year for festivals. This has been lost for obvious reasons, what is there now is an extravagant network of breeding, dressage, rental and sale of horses to wear them during the holidays. And with this we come to the last point.

Speciesist love

You will never meet anyone who considers that he treats “his” horse badly. The riders assure that they love them, that they take care of them and that they “live like kings”. It is not false but it is not true either. The problem is, as always, in the anthropocentric approach: the horse lives so that humans can use it for their own benefit.

If this condition is not met, then the relationship becomes cloudy –Sale, abandonment, sacrifice– and, in order for it to occur, the equidae are subjected to taming and saddling, housed in stables and being forced to do activities that horses that live in herds and roam freely in some would never do. North America, Asia and Europe regions.

Returning to the subject, the feeling of esteem that a human really feels for the horse that he forces to go through all this process represents the affective toxicity paradigm. The affection that the rider feels for the horse he rides at festivals is as true as the suffering to which he is subjected and as toxic as that of that farmer who claims to love his pigs but sends them to the slaughterhouse because that is how he makes money.

In short, species love is, then, a cruel caprice that places us in the field of absurdity, since obviously we cannot be mere owners – owners! – of the beings we believe we love.

I would like to finish with a piece of information that one of the Menorcan horsemen with whom I have spoken to write this article told me and that seems to me to be a sad metaphor that sums up many things. It turns out that since horses cannot vomit, his main cause of death is empacho.

Because yes, you can love someone so badly and badly to give them food until they die. The background is what it is: years ago, horses ceased to be a key element of human survival in the West and were considered little more than an expensive, elitist, and great-looking toy.

Anyway, since they told us that we would come out better from the pandemic and in the end, no, I sense that there will be ‘fuss’ in 2022. A shame and another missed chance to save from their condemnation those animals that, due to their exceptional physical condition, their power and adaptability, have spent centuries of slave labor, tamed and ridden since childhood by those who say they love them. As if you could love someone to whom we deny freedom.

Author’s note: A very high-risk sport to write something like this about the tradition that marks the character of an island and its people, but it is not worth pointing out animal abuse at other people’s parties and not doing it with your own. Of course, I appreciate the sympathy of all the riders and former riders with whom I have spoken these days to be able to outline my opinion. I offer you a ‘gin amb llimonada’ through Sant Joan, while the horses launch in Es Pla.





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