“It’s a job, and importantly, a dignified way for people to earn money and look after their family and children. It’s also a way to say to people that culture comes in many diverse forms and that it must be respected.”
These were the words of Hernando Franco when asked why he thought bullfighting should be reinstated in Bogota. He is a professional bullfighter who has been out of work for more than two years.
He worked at the historic Santa Maria Bullring for more than a decade, until two years ago, when Mayor Petro brought the sport to an end in the capital.
“Thanks to Gustavo Petro, I haven’t worked in two years. I live and work in Bogota as a bullfighter and the economic side has been very hard on me. For the last two years I have basically been living in poverty,” he said.
José Gabriel Ortiz, a renowned bull fighting journalist, also claims to have lost his job due to the law.
“The bullfighters and the laws for them to work deserve to be respected. Here we have a historic bullring that was built for such shows. It’s an art form with its roots going back thousands of years, from the Greeks, throughout Europe, to Spain.”
Ortiz went on to say that he believes that Mayor Petro is a “dictator who does whatever he wants in this city” and that he doesn’t think the hunger strike will make the mayor change his decision.
Another person who had strong views on Petro was Daniela Carmona, wife of one of the hunger strikers. She said that thanks to Mayor Petro, many other mayors of smaller cities and villages around Colombia are following suit.
|We are workers of the art of bullfighting. We want to let Petro know that we have studied and worked, because to be a bullfighter you have to prepare yourself through education – culturally and physically – to do so. – Wilmer Villamil, professional matador and hunger striker
“Before the prohibition of bullfighting in Bogota, there were about 800 bullfights taking place around Colombia each year. Now, as a result of other mayors following in Petro’s tracks, that number has declined dramatically to around 200 a year.”
Carmona went on to say that the men have decided that they are going to keep going with the hunger strike until they get results.
“The mayor of Bogota must realise that he is infringing upon the law. There is the law 916 from 2004 where all of the terms of bullfighting are written – so he is violating a law and taking away our right to work,” she said.
Wilmer Villamil, a matador and one of the hunger strikers, said, “we are demonstrating freedom of expression and the right to be able to partake in our line of work.
“We are workers of the art of bullfighting. We want to let Petro know that we have studied and worked, because to be a bullfighter you have to prepare yourself through education – culturally and physically – to do so.”
The hunger strikers placed a strong emphasis on the economic impact the bull fighting prohibition has had, not only on the bull fighters themselves, but also on many other aspects of society.
According to statistics put forward by the bullfighting community, over 36,000 jobs have been lost over the past two years.
“It’s an activity that generates a lot of business for restaurants around the bullring. For those restaurants it was the best time of the year to make money [during the summer festival] because so many came to see the bullfights. Also, the people who sell items such as sweets, hats and merchandise on the street have been affected greatly,” said professional bullfighter Luis Heraldo.
Heraldo went on to speak about his sorrow for the young men who have worked hard to get into bullfighting and have now had it taken away.
“I used to make a living working in bullfighting, and now I don’t have the possibility to do it in Bogota. Fortunately, like many of my other workmates, I was able to attend other fairs, like those in Manizales, Cali and Medellin. But for the young guys who are starting out and trying to make something of their lives, it has hugely affected them.”
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