ACULCO, Mexico (AP) — The corral gate swings open and an energetic calf charges in, only to be wrestled stuggling to the ground and immobilized by having its legs tied. The men go to work vaccinating the calf and marking its number with a burning iron on its back.
It happened in one of the sessions of a workshop that José Arturo Jiménez gave this past week at his ranch in Aculco, a town in the State of Mexico near Mexico City, attended by about 40 university students and others.
The event was part of an initiative by the Mexican Association of Bullfighting to attract new followers for the centries-old tradition of bullfighting by educating young people about the different activities that surround the breeding of fighting bulls.
The association is trying to counter the growing global movement driven by animal defenders who seek to abolish bullfighting, which they consider torture of bulls.
Although bullfighting is still allowed in much of Mexico, it is suspended in some states, such as Sinaloa, Guerrero, Coahuila and Quintana Roo. There is also a legal fight in Mexico City that threatens the future of the capital's Plaza Mexico, the largest bullfighting arena in the world.
Jimenez admitted that a good part of the public that now attends bullfights in Mexico is not very young.
So Jiménez and other members of the association in recent years have dedicated themselves to promoting a hundred events and educational workshops for young people in different parts of Mexico.
“You have to give the elements to people so they can decide what they like and don’t like ... and at least let them know our truth and decide if it is good or bad,” the 64-year-old rancher said.
During the workshops, participants are taught the different aspects of the breeding of fighting bulls, their rigorous care and the studies that are conducted to determine the fighting spirit and proclivities of various animals.
Among those attending the rancher’s workshop was environmental engineering student Estefanía Manrique, who six years ago became drawn to bullfighting after recluctantly accompanying her mother to Plaza Mexico to see a cousin in a bullfight.
Before going “I had this idea that it was abuse,” Manrique said, but her perception was changed by the ritual surrounding the bullfight.
“I really like theater, and seeing how they analyze the bulls and move them according to the characteristics they have — and it even seems that they are dancing, other times they seem to be acting — I loved that,” the 22-year-old said.
She added that her love for bullfighting has caused problems among her university classmates because most of her social circle are more sympathetic to the view of animal rights activists, but she said she defends her passion.
Jimenez has high hopes that the incipient educational effort will succeed in drawing in new afficianados for bullfighting and ensure the survival of the tradition.
“We want them to continue more than with this party," he said. "Let people follow to go to the countryside, raise their animals, sow their seeds, harvest, have a bond with the land, eat healthy food and are not hypocritical, not made of glass and know that animals have to be killed to eat them and they have to be respected and cared for.”