When most people think of Spain the first things that come to mind are generally, flamenco, Picasso, paella and bullfighting. I did too until I moved here and realized that was a very generalized and small view of the country and culture.
Nevertheless, right or wrong they are all experiences you must have while visiting Barcelona. However when it comes to bullfighting its advised you make your way to the famed Plaza de Toros Monumental Barcelona now or run the risk of missing out on the centuries old tradition before it’s wiped clean from the city and greater Catalonia come 2012. Just days ago, the local parliament voted to ban bullfighting in the region.
Over the last years bullfights across Spain has dropped by one-third, due mostly to budget cuts of local governments, which fund the spectacles. In Catalonia there are now only just a dozen fights a year that take place in La Monumental (as its widely referred to) in Barcelona and is primarily the only place that still holds fights in the region.
This is a direct result of a fierce backlash by animal rights activists like Equanimal, to ban bullfighting in Spain despite its deep seeded roots in Spanish culture.
Some say the recent ban in Catalonia is linked to their desire to separate from Spain becoming their own independent nation stemming from the days when Catalan’s were persecuted by the Franco regime. Nevertheless it seems as though there are a great number of Spaniards throughout the country that see it as cruel and barbaric.
I for one happen to agree with the protestors and haven’t had the courage to attend a live bullfight even though I live near one of the grandest stadiums in the country.
For others they see it as a tradition that needs to live on. There are long hereditary lines of toreros where from father to son to grandson the passion for bullfighting is passed down. Top toreros are celebrities in their own right constantly hounded by the paparazzi and lusted after by women who find their bravery in the ring irresistible.
Undoubtedly the suits that they wear consisting of ballet flats, sparkly bolero jackets and tight capris that show off every bulge on their body do require a real man secure in his manhood. Any other guy would run the other way when presented with a gold embroidered outfit that bullfighters wear into battle.
La Monumental opened its doors to the public in 1914 with the curious name of Plaza de El Sport; however that didn’t last long and was shortly thereafter modified and re-named in 1916 with its current name.
Located on the corner of Gran Via and Marin, the curved structure designed with a mixture of Moorish and Byzantine architectural details is an astounding work of art that sticks out amongst the more staid office and apartment buildings in the area. The bright blue and white tiles and domed columns are an immediate attention-grabber. The mere size of the stadium that has a capacity to hold 19,582 is striking.
Ever since its inauguration, La Monumental acquired a prestigious ranking within the bullfighting world and was considered to be among the top three plazas in Spain along with Las Ventas in Madrid and La Maestranza in Seville.
Although, even before ground was broken for the stadium two very important plazas in Barcelona already existed, La Plaza de El Torin and La Plaza de las Arenas in Plaza Espana, that is now being modified to house a modern shopping mall.
The passion for bullfighting ran deep in Barcelona as can be seen by the number of plazas within its borders nevertheless with the current opposition to the dangerous sport it may come to an end, at least in Catalonia.
Politics aside, many aficionados whom enjoy ‘’corridas’’ as they are called in Spanish, come to La Monumental because of the plaza’s reputation around the world. The bullfighting season begins approximately in April and runs through the end of September with about 20 corridas taking place every year.
For the rest of the year, the plaza is the site for numerous events such as live music concerts and circus performances. A little known secret is one of the biggest celebrated events that took place in the stadium actually didn’t involve a bull or a matador at all. It was a Beatles concert on July 3, 1965.
In the summer of 1976 the Rolling Stones performed there and up through the early nineties La Monumental was the stage for other great acts like Bob Marley, Tina Turner, Dire Straits and Bruce Springsteen.
Only open to the public during bullfighting season, you can also visit The Bullfighting Museum of Barcelona that is housed within the stadium.
Inside the large two-room space you will find a selection of artifacts related to the sport of bullfighting. The exhibit includes, branding irons and emblems of famous bull-breading farms, the taxidermy heads of famous bulls, a collection of antique advertising posters announcing matches, vintage ticket stubs, and suits of famous bullfighters and rejoneadores (horse-mounted bullfighters popular in Portugal), vintage photographs, a library on bullfighting and other objects related to the tradition.
For the weak-stomached, you can always catch the gory details on the tele of bulls getting speared with swords or even more horrifying toreros getting gored by a raging bull. Ouch!
Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 749
Ticket Prices: 44 euros to 99 euros
To purchase tickets, go to Tauroentrada.com