David Penton. Eurotoro pg. 56.  



      The tournament of the Toro de La Vega, which takes place in Tordesillas, a small town fuil of history on a bluff aboye a crossing of the Duero just south of Valladolid, is one of the oldest and best known festejos populares in Spain. It has become the focus of antit aurinos in recent years attracting coach loads of protestors from ah over Spain as weIl as many guardia civil to control them and try to prevent clashes with the local people. The protesters had a big rally in Madrid the Saturday before this year’s event and have enlisted the support of a number of celebrities, actors, pop singers etc.

     They have been very successful with their misleading press briefings to the extent that quite a few taurinos, including sorne CTL rnembers, are now uncertain or opposed to it continuing. 1 believe that in many cases this is due to a lack of understanding which 1 hope this article may dispel as well as explaining why it is important that the antis do not succeed in having it banned. I was invited to be on a panel of four speakers at an international congress to give a view from our own countries and to talk about what, if any, Iink we saw between the Toro de la Vega and Tauromaquia. The occasion was moderated by CTL member Ana Alvarado and there was an audience of sorne 70 people from hom questions were taken after the speeches. My fellow panellists were Williams Cárdenas from Venezuela and President of the Asociación Internacional de Tauromaquia, André Viard, the French taurine author, journalist and broadcaster and Luis Miguel Capucha, Professor of Politics and Sociology at Lisbon University.

     Our meeting place in the morning was changed several times for security reasons and we had a guardia civil escort. We were taken in two 4WD vehicles, the only ones allowed on the course apart from Red Cross ones, to have a very privileqed view of the event which could only be had otherwise if one was on horseback or was a very fit and brave/foolhardy person running on foot. While this was the sixth time I have seen the tournament it is the first time I have really seen what happens apart from what 1 now know are very clearly misleading video clips. To understand my speech which follows I think it is important to be aware of the strict rules of the Torneo which the antis do not refer to.

      I do not detail them in my speech as most of the audience was aware of them. However I imagine sorne readers of this piece will not be, so 1 mention here the principal ones. Fines of up to €9,000 are ¡mposed on those who infringe them. 1 The area where the buli may be killed is strictly delineated and starts about 1km from where it is released. It runs down through the town from the Plaza Mayor, across the bridge over the Duero and into the area of open country where it can be killed. This is effectively an encierro but, as there are no other accompanying animals, it can take sorne time for it to reach the area where it can be killed as it may go slowly or turn back or be deflected to Ieft or right as the area where it goes widens out. If the buIl survives 60 minutes from its release without being killed or runs through the killing area to the campo beyond it is indultado. This last happened about 20 years ago but, as only one bull is run each year, this s a lot more frequent than the indultos granted in corridas and novilladas.

     2 The bull can only be killed by a registered lancer. This year there were 17 on foot and 34 on horseback. The bull can only be killed by a lance thrust by one person directly facing the bull. It can be killed by a lancer on foot if it is stationary or running directly at the lancer. A horseman may only kiIl the bull if it is stationary. This year no award was made for the kill as three men were involved, one of whorn thrust his lance in from the side. It was dead 23 minutes after its release. 1 would add that it is not picced, has no banderillas placed in it and if the thrust from the lancer is accurate the death is very quick. 1 have seen many times a far more prolonged death in a corrida de toros. A translation of my speech follows: “I once read that Juan Belmonte said, at a tertulia of intellectuals in Madrid during the Second World War: "All Englishmen. until thev orove to the contrarv. are spies’ I would like to assure you that this Englishman is not a spy. I have several very good friends who live here in Tordesillas and this morning was the sixth time that 1 have seen the Toro de la Vega. It is a great pleasure, and indeed an honour, that you have invited me to talk at your conference as a representative of Great Britain and the Club Taurino of London which has sorne 350 members in 22 countries.

     I believe there is definite connection between your event and tauromaquia. For me tauromaquia is like a huge pyramid with, at its base, more than 15.000 festejos populares held last year including diflerent types of event in various provinces, eg Toros de Fuego (tarbalis attache to a frame on the bull’s head are set alight) in Castilla y León, Aragón, Catalunya and Valencia, Encierros where bulls or cows run through the streets of a town or in from the country accompanied by people on horseback as far as the edge of a town in Navarra, Madrid and Castilla y León, BulIs in the Sea in Levante, Espantes de Toros where bulls come in from the countryside and people shake their arms to try and prevent them entering the town and return to their corrals in Castilla y León, Toros de Aguardiente (inebriated bulls) in Ciudad Rodrigo and other towns: Recortadores, Toros Ensogados (bulls on the end of a rope), BulIs in the Street and Capeas throughout nearly ffie whole of Spain. And in addition there are unique festejos populares heid in just one place such as the Toro Enmaromado in Benavente, el Fuente del Vino in Toro, el Toro Jubilo in Medinaceli and, perhaps most famous of all, your own Toro de la Vega. AlI these events are fundamental to support the pyramid, al the top of which are the corridas in Las Ventas, La Maestranza and Vista Alegre And for me there are two very clear links between your spectacle and those corridas.

      First of ah there are strict regulations governing both which set out what wiII happen and what is permitted by the participants. In the case of Tordesillas, the Patronato del Toro de la Vega has the responsibility for the organisation and carrying out of the event, eg where and how the bull mut be killed, what type of buil it must be and how it must be cared for and more. I am sure that everyone here is well enough aware of the regulations which govern the responsibility for corridas. Now, to the second, and perhaps more important, link between the Toro de la Vega and the corrida. In both cases the bull is a symbol of alI the worst characteristics we find in human beings — aggression, hostihity, uncontrolled power, anger, violence — whereas the man represents alI the finer characteristics — bravery, intelligence, courage, skill, nobility, pride. And in both your event and in the corrida, God willing, at the end the good characteristics triumph over the bad. Unfortunately there is now a third, and disturbing, point in common — the activities of the anti-taurinos.

     Each year that I come here and to various plazas de toros throughout Spain and France there are more antis, and each time they appear more aggressive. One of the traditional virtues of the British is tolerance and one of our guiding principIes is: Live and let uve. From this comes a mutual respect for other people with different beliefs and opinions about matters such as rehigion, politics, sexual preferences, ways of living etc. Todaywe uve in a global world in which we are alI citizens of the world. Rut it is important that, while we celebrate this fact, we conserve, protect and take pride in our different traditions. Without these each region, each country will turn into a single homogenous culture, and thereby the world wiIl become a boring place. In Spain one of the oldest traditions is tauromaquia and here in Tordesillas mere has been, since 1355, the Toro de la Vega. It would be a tragedy if these activities were prohibited as a result of the actions of a minority which is very vocal, well organised and clever.

      It would be a similar tragedy to the banning of hare coursing and fox hunting in Great Britain. The law there was changed because the hunting community did not believe that it would happen and thought that the atis were a bunch of loonies whereas, in reality, they were smart, they had good connections with the press, with politicians and with people who had no opinion either way. Thus, my message is that there is a strong connection between the Toro de la Vega and tauromaquia. The two are very oId traditions and it is important that they are preserved for you, for Spain and for the world. But, take care. Do not underestimate the antis They are fol just crazies — there are many who are clever, have determination, useful connections, organisational skills, money and believe deeply in what they are trying to achieve.”


Patronato del Toro de la Vega. Tordesillas (Valladolid)