"That's what they do there."

by La Sevillana /
La Sevillana's picture
May 07, 2009 / 1 comments

This is not an entry about bull fighting...per se. It's about our responsibility as educators in representing those we meet during our journeys in all their complexity; avoiding over-simplifications and cultural stereotypes. The relationship of Spaniards to bullfighting is a good example of how easy it is to succumb to cultural stereotypes that aren't entirely accurate. 

TaquillaNeat fact #1: Although I live directly across the river from La Maestranza in Sevilla, I've never seen los toros because my Sevillano husband detests them. Go figure.


The maestranzaThe photo at the right is Sevilla's Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza, where the bullfights are held.


I once heard a Spanish course instructor, who was preparing for a trip to Spain, announce to her class that the first thing she was going to do upon arrival was to catch a bullfight. When some of her students expressed their disapproval, she defended her decision with a blithe: "Well, that's what they do there." 


That's certainly what some people "do there." It certainly isn't what "they" do there. In reality, Spaniards tend to be all over the map when it comes to bullfighting. There are dedicated aficionados, there are those determined to end when they consider a "barbaric" or "archaic" practice, and then there's all the folks that are either ambivalent or really just have no opinion about the topic. So, you see, going to bullfights is not (necessarily) "what they do there."

for the tourists

Neat fact #2: I have it from a reliable source that Sevilla's bullfights have become touristy and are loosing their authenticity. If you're interested in seeing a bullfight while in Spain, you may want to consider another location. The photo at the left is an advertisement for tourists.

Anthropologists now recognize that "culture," if thought of as a monolithic entity that is shared by an entire people and directs their behavior, does not exist. Culture is, what we call in the biz, contested; there are always those from within that question and challenge even its most basic elements. Hence, the complexity of the bullfight in Spain. Bullfighting has different meaning for different Spaniards. There is no agreement on what bullfighting means or even whether or not it should exist to begin with. Therefore, some participate in a sort of culture of bullfighting, while others do not. Bullfighter

The complexity of culture makes talking about Spaniards, or any other cultural group, challenging. Being aware that we carry around in our heads oversimplifications and generalizations about other people and their culture is the first step in understanding the behavior that we see while we're out there in the world - and the first step in accurately representing those we meet along the way to others. In this way, blithe "that's what they do theres" can be replaced by "Well, it's an important part of being Spanish for some people, and I think it sounds like fun."

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