Return of bullfighting in Spain after industry crippled by COVID-19
Rahul Pathak in Madrid

On Sunday, bullfighting returned to Madrid's famous Las Ventas arena, its spiritual home, after an absence of 19 months.

The event had six of the sport's most famous matadors performing in front of 6,000 fans, 25 percent of the arena's capacity because of COVID-19 restrictions. 


It was held to raise money for the estimated 200,000 people who work in bullfighting – an industry that had a yearly turnover of $4.8 billion pre-pandemic but has been crippled by the financial fallout of COVID-19.

One of the matadors taking part in Sunday's event was Paco Urena, who CGTN Europe met a year ago while bullfighting was on its enforced hiatus. 

At the time, he did not know when he would be returning to Las Ventas, so Sunday was an emotional moment for him. 

"It was a beautiful afternoon, us bullfighters were finally able to reconnect with our fans and that's the most important thing we achieved," he said. 

It was also a big day for the thousands of fans allowed to attend the event.


Demonstrators wearing horns in northern Spain in protest against bullfighting. /AP/ Alvaro Barrientos

Demonstrators wearing horns in northern Spain in protest against bullfighting. /AP/ Alvaro Barrientos


One man told CGTN Europe: "It's a big relief to be back here. We have been locked up at home and we could have been watching bullfights before now."

Another woman said having to wait more than a year to see a bullfight live was almost unbearable: "I was so keen to come back, I've been so excited that I've been studying the different bulls from the different ranches that are participating here today."

Despite all the euphoria, bullfighting remains deeply controversial.

In recent years, it's become more of a political issue, with animal rights groups siding with the left-wing parties, while those on the right say it should be protected as a Spanish art form.

But matadors like Urena are just happy to be performing in front of fans again.

"Today was a really important step forward," he said. "We hope everything now starts to get going and that they allow us to continue with our bullfights and to perform whenever we get the opportunity. 

"We want to continue to enjoy bullfighting."

Judging from the crowds, bullfighting remains hugely popular with its fanbase, but for Urena and his fellow matadors, their long-term future is still far from certain.

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